Each painting is an expression of an unspoken truth. The subject of a painting may be anything from a pile of ordinary stones, a bundle of fruit, a nude woman, a line of trees or an abstract celebration of red color. Red trees, passionate and energetic, are a favorite subject. Every painting has to pass some final tests or suffer the fate of being wiped out. The tests include questions about composition and balance and, just as importantly, they include questions about texture and energy. Sherman believes that every painting should be as interesting from 6 inches away as from 6 feet away. At close inspection , the viewer is often astounded by the cracks, fissures, lines, musical notes and hidden messages. Finally , every painting has to pass the test of the question “soul or no soul”. The answer is often hard to explain, but it is essential that the painting speak to the soul of the artist and the viewer.
John Sherman describes his paintings as “breakthroughs from the archetypal world”. Others have described them as “psychologically significant” works of “contemplative artistry”. He also describes himself as a “participatory expressionist”, an artist with a self-conscious rapport with the phenomenal world. His paintings utilize texture, color and symbolism to produce works or representational expressionism, sometimes crossing the edge into abstraction
Not formally trained in the fine arts, Sherman’s methods of constructions and fabrication are largely self-taught, but informed by careful study of modern media using stable archival processes. Most of his paintings are multi-layer sculptural constructions of collage, paint, acrylic and other media. The surfaces are progressively built up and frequently “cracked” intentionally before application of the final layers.
For Sherman, painting has become a form of meditation, supplementing his standard discipline. The images that flow from this practice are subjected to compositional constraint through analog and digital modification and then cast into a process of layering. Colors and material combine into something unexpected, where complex layers of form, line and color are woven together, Mysterious nudes, prayerful text, fantastic imagery, musical scores and figurative poetry inherent in mysticism , religion and philosophy are frequent elements of his paintings.
Sherman’s techniques rely on the timeless mythic qualities of classical shapes, intense colors, and textural complexity to produce paintings that invite the viewer to participate in the experience. His paintings elicit questions in the viewer and the answers remain unspoken.
A 20th-century European art movement that stresses the expression of emotion and the inner vision of the artist rather than the exact representation of nature. Distorted lines and shapes and exaggerated colors are used for emotional impact. Vincent Van Gogh is regarded as the precursor of this movement. Abstract Expressionism is an anti-figurative development which has the additional elements of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, possibly, nihilistic.
Participation, as a philosophical concept is somewhat difficult to discuss. Owen Barfield is the primary thinker and writer about these concepts."Original Participation" was ancient man's sense of oneness and communion with the cosmos. This feeling was gradually lost. The following stanza neatly summarizes the process of moving away from participation and the resultant hollowing-out of the meaning of words and life till only an antiseptic paper shell remains.
Little by little we subtract Faith and fallacy from fact The illusory from the true And starve upon the residue. (Samuel Hoffenstein c 1933)
We can think of the history of mankind from original participation (man wore the world like a coat) to the de-participated 19th century of science (coat is separate from man) to “Final” participation (coat can be worn or taken off). Thus arrived at final participation, we return to where we were in the beginning and we are in a different place. We have, in Barfield's metaphor, rediscovered the fountain of life that we had replaced with a system of laws. We can develop a self conscious rapport with the whole phenomenal world. As Barfield put it
“The elimination of original participation involves a contraction of human consciousness from periphery to center...- a contraction from the cosmos of wisdom to something like a purely brain activity - but by the same token it involves an awakening. For we awake, out of universal - into self - consciousness." (Owen Barfield 1988)”
However, the awakening of “final participation” involves the letting go of ego and uncovering my own “true self”, a Self that consciously feels and remembers its connection with the ultimate ground of being, a Self that relishes freedom and the origin of my body and brain in nature, a Self that accepts death as part of life, a Self that is willing to forgive. To deny, repress and ignore these elements of consciousness is to move into a pathway to the destructive, postmodern, posthuman world.
A term that I use to describe my art in which my intention is not to reproduce a subject accurately, but instead to portray it in such a way as to express my inner connection with the subject. It is my belief that, artists can sometimes manifest an image or a process that encompasses and transcends the reality of the individual artist, the viewer, and the subject .