Tony Scherman is drawn to subject matter that imprints itself on the human psyche—through history and reflected in literature and mythologies. He paints to understand the contingencies of our world with source material that is extracted from the public domain of film, photography, magazines—and sometimes from life—although he does not privilege any single source.
The complex facets in Scherman’s work are uniquely grounded in his preferred medium of encaustic. Although it has a long historical usage, Scherman has developed the material potential in contemporary terms. He describes it as a means to accelerate visual information and speaks of “the how” to achieve results that “cannot be foreseen.” In a nod to Marshall McLuhan’s best known bon mot, Scherman’s message is in this medium, a vocabulary that is his alone. At the same time Scherman does not distance himself from painting’s history; he recovers what matters to him.
The portrait has been in Scherman’s figurative “repertoire” since the early 1990s, and serves several agendas. One is the character that bears witness—and increasingly, over time, some have been expressed in a notational approach. They are separated from the anecdotal and sometimes the flesh. The “strangeness” is not a stylistic affect, but leads the viewer to something more than verifying what we see of the world—what is registered day to day, and thereby to unpack “his text.” This is the philosophical dimension in Scherman’s work—the history of being and the philosophical debate that has accrued over time (and literally builds up and scrapes away at the painting surface). Scherman does not paint philosophy: he negotiates these propositions as a relay station in which he himself is subject to signal relaying.
Tony Scherman invites collision—more so than acts of transgression—to know and draw from the deep well of anxieties that is forever the human condition. The constant activation between image and knowing is underscored in a passage from the German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831): “True reality lies beyond immediate sensation and the objects we see every day… Only what exists in itself is real [and] Art digs an abyss between the appearance and illusion of this bad and perishable world, on the one hand, and the true content of events on the other, to re-clothe these events and phenomena with a right reality, born of the mind.”
Dr. Ihor Holubizky
McMaster Museum of Art