Arts, culture, ideas & expression of a few wild art monkeys living in an arts loft in Jersey City.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview with globe trotting mystery man:Artist/Painter-John Ruddy

JF-You've been with 660 for like 6 yrs now, or is it 7?

JR-I think 7 years. Or 1 dog year.

JF-We met because I registered for the JC Artist's Studio Tour for the first time and invited Greg Brickey of City Halls Cultural Affairs department, I asked him for the best talent to add to the space and he named only one name. John Ruddy
That's pretty impressive.

JR--I appreciate those people like Greg who have followed my work over the years. To me it's more valuable to cultivate a loyal group of fans than a horde of dispassionate passers-by.

JF-What is it about the community aspect of working in a collaborative that interested you enough to jump on board with us when I invited you to that first RockSoup Meeting? Because otherwise your a fairly insulated guy.

JR-The energy you find amongst a community of artists can be creatively nourishing. It's part competition, part exposure to new aesthetic influences , and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to exhibit work in a receptive environment. Art objects need an audience to come to life.

JF-Back when we met you were painting in the same style, but these days you've been working more on the details of your frames, which have a more sculptural intent. Can you tell us about that transition and what you get out of each process?

JR-I find myself increasingly drawn to sculpture. The sculptural quality of the frames I've been making was originally intended to augment or 'complete' the existing work, but I found that it has fundamentally transformed those pieces into something altogether new and different. It's a synthesis of disciplines, if you like.

JF-I know you also began a portrait series where you painted some of your friends, what can you tell us about that project and what you intend to do with it?

JR-I hope to have this new series of portraits completed this Spring for a possible exhibition at Paul Vincent Studios. People's faces are tremendously mysterious to me. They possess the echo of the countless generations of ancestors who lived and died to create this current form. Every face is a time machine of sorts. It's my hope to pull something from deep inside my subjects and put it there on the surface for examination. Not always a comfortable proposition for the sitter involved, however.

JF- HA! I'm Glad I turned down the opportunity to sit for you then. I knew you were up to something.
JF-Your work has quite a bit of religeous and political symbols and text, your clearly interested in travel and language as well, what prompted you to put it into your work?

JR--Travel is the greatest education. There is no substitute for the immersion of oneself in a foreign culture. The curiosity and confrontation one experiences while traveling can be a powerful inspirational force. Religion and language are a group's collective expression of identity, unique to that group, yet somehow universal. The more I expose myself to those disparate cultures the more I see how similar we are as a species.

Many people see your work and are drawn to the rich colors and beauty but are also completely mystified by the meanings of the language and symbols in the work. Do you enjoy giving your fans somewhat of a history lesson when your asked about your work or do you prefer to leave it with a sense of mystery?

JR--I consistently struggle with that. Certainly my images are the result of some kind of 'personal mythology' that are strung together as a result of my interests and passions. That being said, I go to great lengths to construct forms that are appealing and attractive to the viewer whether they are aware of the specifics or not. Mystery can be a hook to get people to explore further the meanings of a piece. I'm not so much interested in giving a history lesson as much as I am in inviting people to follow the Myth that one of my paintings represent.

One of my favorite pieces of yours is 'Al-Ghaffar'. I love the piece but know nothing about its meaning, what can you tell us about that piece?

JR--The title and Arabic text of the piece 'Al-Ghaffar' is one of the traditional 99 names of Allah as expressed in Quranic literature. It translates roughly as 'The All-Forgiving'. The painting was inspired by a trip I took to Indonesia in the wake of the Bali nightclub bombing by islamic extremists. The primary image in the piece is a portrayal of a Balinese dancer showering a mosque with marigolds. The Balinese represent a small Hindu minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia. The reaction of most of the Balinese people to this horrible incident, apart from grief, was a visible effort to find compassion and forgiveness for both the perpetrators of the crime and the greater Muslim society which envelops them. I saw very little anger or rage, which is something that was certainly not the case after our own terrorist catastrophe in New York.

JF- With topics such as these, your sure to cultivate not only a loyal group of fans like you mentioned, but also a passionate group. You have a show coming up at Paul Vincent Studios soon. When is that and what can we expect?

JR-The show is currently scheduled for sometime in May. If all goes well, I hope to exhibit a whole new body of work which takes a creative approach to portraiture. Should be interesting...

Thanx John.

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