1991 John Hooper

John Hooper Strathbutler 1991

Portrait of John Hooper, Strathbutler 1991 (photo – James Wilson)

… and always humanity always the human image strong in its own contained life …

The Strathbutler Award recognised Hooper’s mastery of his craft as well as his significant contribution to the cultural life on New Brunswick. Hooper, a respected advocate for environmental and human rights issues, challenged others to think deeply. His compelling figures are a testament to the pressures, delights and challenges of modern life.

A sculptor, trained at the prestigious Royal College of Art, London, Hooper spent four years in South Africa establishing sculpture departments in a college and university besides completing a number of public commissions.

He came to Saint John in 1962 as Supervisor of Art, settling in Hampton with his wife Kathy. For thirteen years Hooper played a high profile demanding professional role laying the foundations of two innovative educational programs within the Saint John and Hampton communities. He completed several public commissions but relied on his education career to support his growing family. Yet a radical rethinking of his sculptural work had its genesis in this time.

Moving from the sculptural norms on the day which were dominated by abstraction, assemblage, welding and casting, Hooper embraced the maritime wood sculpture traditions immortalized by the splendid figureheads of sailing ship. Hooper decided to work in wood ,“to stick with human images” and not only to carve wood but to embellish it with colour a succession of groups of richly painted monumental carved wood “people “ emerged. His timeless art has become New Brunswick’s outward affirmation of the dignity of the individual.

Hopper’s work and contributions have been recognised in many ways including:  being awarded a Member of The Order of Canada, The World of John Hooper major retrospective initiated and toured by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery Fredericton, LLD University of New Brunswick, City Shapes The Vancouver Centennial Sculpture Competition, Elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts and NBAB Miller Brittain Ward for Excellence in the Visual Arts.

In the artist’s words

“As to the content of my sculpture…they reflect something of my feelings about the human condition; people relating to people, people relating to this magnificent and cruel world upon which we strive to live, and our isolation from each other.

The search is always for oneself, for the moment of connection to image.

My first encounter with a three-inch chess piece in a glass case, inaccessible, but an image of man, huge, wondrous in its contained force. Centuries old. walrus ivory, traces of colour worn down by playing hands. Created by these hands, my hands, his hands, simply of man, carving, cutting, breathing – blowing away the chips.

And always in the head other forms – scribbled on paper, shapes thrusting, pleading to be given form – the next carving.

The mind’s eye sucking in and storing, the senses humming…. and the child – kneading clay, fingers devising, shaping wood. Wire, tin, paper, paint and stones into desired images, playthings, simulations of unattainable adventure. the boy – building his own plane, flying at the twist of an elastic band, senses drawing in storms at sea, the beauty of aerial dogfights and the wonder of colour and touch of a pheasant’s feather. the man – still building and wondering – wood, metal, paint and tools; clamps and glue, chain saw; the drive to make something my way for me – and always humanity always the human image strong in its own contained life.

Did you know that as another image grows from the wood in my studio there is a point where its image becomes certain, a living entity – and that I no longer make all the decisions – cut here, hold off there, deeper in here – no – it’s both of us from then on. Nice eh? That is my confirmation, my continuum.”