Howard Hersh is an artist who uses structural imagery as a metaphor for identifying ourselves in space and time. Additionally, structure is a template for social, intellectual, work, and virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
Also, when Hersh reveals the construction of the paintings substrate, he is implying that while paintings are pictures of things, (illusions), they are also objects that stand on their own.
In this way, structure serves not only as a metaphor, but as a physical presence, exerting itself as such.
From the beginning of my career I have resisted allowing my painting practice to become static or predictable. I continually challenge myself to question and refine my modes of expression. In 2012, I began to wrestle with the conundrum that paintings are illusionary in nature: they are pictures of things. At the same time, since childhood, I have had a passion for making ‘things.’ I wanted to renew that commitment to making objects, while continuing to paint. In other words, I wanted to make paintings that are themselves objects. I started by breaking out of the traditional rectangular, flat format, creating dimensionality and irregular shapes. But the work wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. It remained clearly in the domain of painting. In 2013, I began to create paintings that exposed the construction of the substrates. I learned woodworking skills, acquired new tools, and dedicated studio space to the construction of these ‘frame’ works. Finally, the structural imagery in the paintings had complete continuity with the underlying structures themselves: they had become objects.
TWO MEANS TO AN END
Over the course of an artist’s working life, it’s not unusual for one body of work to inform another. I currently find myself in a less familiar situation: working on two distinctly different bodies of work that address the same issues from opposing directions.
“Dispositions of Structure” (encaustic on panel) are paintings about structure: the fabric of the universe as we know it, from invisible forms of energy pulsing through every atom to visible natural phenomena. And beyond physical structures, these paintings tackle the societal, political, and intellectual structures we all must navigate.
“Skin Deep” (acrylic on birch and basswood) developed from an inquiry into the nature of painting itself. Specifically, I am questioning the notion that paintings exist as pictures of something — illusions – while sculptures exist on their own, as objects. Because I love making things as well as paintings, I wanted to deconstruct painting and push this work closer to “objecthood.” The basswood wall structures of “Skin Deep” exert themselves as objects, encapsulating as well as supporting the paintings.
Simply put, “Two Means to an End” are paintings about structure and structures about painting
My artwork is a reflection of my personal philosophy. An overriding theme is that of no separation. Whether between the natural and the man-made, different cultures, religions, or nationalities; I believe everything is connected and inter-related.
As my work is visual, containing words only in the titles, it has become my challenge and goal to communicate this philosophy of connectedness.
I’ve decided that the way to cut through the illusion of separation is to “peel back the layers” to reveal the essence of things. This is not to say that I’m eliminating complexity and diversity. The essence is inclusive and contains all that is.
In my latest series of paintings, entitled “Pulse”, I’m suggesting that the essence of life is energy. And energy is not static, it pulses and vibrates. In a more contemporary context, think of computer code, which consist of nothing but ones and zeroes. Electric current, our heartbeat, sound; it all vibrates, pulsing, to create life.
So, in my art, I employ beauty to pull the viewer in, and the concept of Essence to communicate my philosophy. If only appreciated on the beauty level, I can take comfort in a job well done. And who knows what else the sub-conscious, non-ego is absorbing? In my opinion, an answer to this question is relative and not absolute.