Artist's statement

My imagery stems mostly from visual information gathered while traveling through Mexico, Guatemala, Southeast Asia, and India, and, not surprisingly, from our sprawling, heterogeneous, and ethnically varied city of Los Angeles, where I was born and have lived for most of my life. This information is compiled through on-site drawings, notations, and photographs. Other fleeting and intangible experiences are often recollected while working in the studio, processed, and given expression and form.

 

The archaeological ruins of pre-Hispanic Meso America that in present day Mexico combines its rich historical heritage with an equally rich and varied cultural and natural landscape offers abundant material waiting to be transformed by one's imagination into art. The sense of color, folklore, the importance of ritual and spiritual intensify as divine excess and mysticism has greatly influenced me. Both Mexico and India exhibit a deep tragic sense, comedy, despair, and a universal tendency for irony and the absurd that I find fascinating as well as disturbing.

 

Traveling has also offered me opportunities to collect objects which I incorporate into my work such as Mexican tablecloths, bark paintings, and a wide variety of packaging materials. I am especially fond of cardboard boxes used to preserve and ship mango fruit. These become part of my materials and surfaces on which I paint.

 

I have always been fascinated with boxes and containers. As a child I marveled at the fruit crates and canned food cartons, as well as the empty cardboard boxes neatly stacked and lying around the storage room in my parents’ grocery store. I loved the colorful labels, especially the ones from foreign countries. In addition to their visual delight, each box or crate had a distinct aroma. I remember the excitement of taking some “empties” home and using them to store my toys or making “houses” and other “buildings”. It was exciting. At the time, it never occurred to me that I was recycling industrial materials. Now, many years later, as an artist, I find myself recycling again.

 

I consider my mango box paintings as facades or “faces” of buildings—a form of portraiture that reveals as well as hides an interior life. Technically, I use a variety of media in conventional ways, as well as an ancient technical method called reverse glass painting.

 

I use the circle and the square as a formal device to organize space. The circle suggests cyclical recurrence. Both the circle and the square are symbols of contemplation and meditation in Buddhism and Hinduism, and as archetypes that have appeared in many cultures throughout the ages. Although my work has symbolic references, my main concern as a visual artist is maintaining the formal integrity of purely abstract relationships of geometric shapes that combine to emphasize the literal, flat picture plane as well as to suggest the illusion of a three-dimensional space.

JOHN de HERAS