Neither Umberto Eco nor Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz were far from the truth in their conception of artistic Works. For the former the “work of art exists only at the moment it is interpreted, when the multiple meanings it has for each spectator actually crystallize”. For the latter, “beauty is not a quality of the object, nor is it a reaction on the part of the subject. It is the relation between the object and the subject”. I would like to borrow their idea. Beauty is not something which is simply there; it is something which arises, which occurs. No type of beauty can be identified as a value in itself; beauty is a spark, an electric arc which flashes between the observer and the object. Art comes into existence when, and only when, it arises. This means that art, and beauty, is a two-way-street, between the artist and his work and the spectator. For this spark to jump when you are in front of one of May Herman’s paintings, you only need a moment’s peace, if possible, in silence and solitude, because what was born as a primal scream, the artist returns to the spectator as a pondered whisper of constrained, disguised but nevertheless profound passion.
May Herman’s paintings draw their essence from her own existence: from her intense experience, as a psychologist who has been the depository for the countless dramas that the human condition has had to withstand. No-one is immune to anyone. We are all marked by those we have known, be it by happiness or Sartre’s hell. Whatever it is, it is the footprint it has left upon us. May Herman imprints upon her paintings the experience of countless memories of others, but she takes a step back, not so much by way of a liberating catharsis (a kind of internal “decolonization”) but more as a way of translating them into a form of expression which can be universally transmitted; which is what Tolstoy demanded of artistic works.
In order to transmit these emotions, May charmingly resorts to glazes which take one to the depths of the painting itself, either towards the interior of mysterious cavities or overflowing its limits and inviting the spectator to imagine the effects of its shockwave. It is a candid work - to quote Umberto Eco once again – insofar as the waves, the concentric circles and the filaments bring to mind microscopic universes, fragments of nature, spiritual obsessions and, to sum up, those worlds which are all within this one and which would be magical if only we were to choose with care the frame in which to enclose them. They are worlds which flow and yet are impenetrable, which is an ancient contradiction that has forever stimulated the curiosity of man and his constant quest for knowledge and May Herman manages to bring them all together using both feeling and reason with a subtlety which I would even go so far as to describe as oriental.
Today, new techniques have taught us to see the world from previously unimagined perspectives: we can observe the mysterious beauty which surrounds the most infinitely small object, the infinite depths of the sea or the infinite height of the skies. May Herman makes us aware, in pictures whose composition and colour appear to be beyond the control of the artist (but which nevertheless are exquisitely worked), that the infinitely unfathomable depths of the human spirit belong to the same dimension in which nature hides its mysteries as if they were its progeny, its accomplices or its prisoners: Zen philosophy teaches that the whole universe is a creation of the mind. Yes, an oriental pulse definitely beats within May Herman’s paintings.
Salvador Moreno Peralta