André Scheffer AKA Hermes2020

Artyczar

Moderator
Messages
12,527
Hi Everyone. Welcome to October! It's time for the Spotlight, and this time, we're going to do something a little different and feature one of our artist members who works heavily in sculpture. I don't know about you, but I'm crazy-inspired by him, his work, and the way his incredible brain works. I'm excited to get this interview up, as it seems like a long time coming.

You all know and love him as Hermes (Hermes2020), but his true name is André Scheffer—something I didn't know until very recently. It's been an honor to get to know André more these last weeks, and I'm certain you will find him further fascinating, too. So, I won't hesitate any longer. Here it is!

Can you start by telling us where you're from, where you've lived, and how you got started making art (and sculpture specifically)?
I was born in 1946 in a city called Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. My mother’s family were mainly of French and Dutch origin, while my father’s family were German Jews. I grew up in a secular environment, but identify strongly with Jewish cultural values. At school, I was equally interested in and did well in both the Arts and Sciences and was considering becoming an architect, which, in my mind, was a blend of those subjects. Rightly or wrongly, I was advised by a career guidance specialist to make a career in science, and that’s what I did.

I enrolled as a bachelor of science student at the local university, convinced that I wanted to become a physicist, but soon found that I got on much better with the people in the chemistry department, especially the organic chemists. Plus, I discovered that organic chemistry is just architecture at the molecular level and required the ability to think in 3D. It was just a natural fit for my personality profile, so I did the usual 4 degrees: BSc, BSC Honours, MSc, and the Ph.D. (doctorate in organic chemistry). Although I loved chemistry and was a good experimentalist, I kept up my interest in painting. Here I am with the beginnings of the painting called Hyperprism, which was inspired by a composition of the same name by Edgard Varese:

Andre and Painting denoised.jpg


Hyperprism.jpg

Hyperprism, oil on hardboard panel,1200 x 1200 mm.

During those years, while working hard on my doctoral research, I found the time to spend many hours doing ceramics at the local art school. Working with clay was wonderfully therapeutic, and I am convinced it helped to freshen my mind to deal with whatever series of experiments I was conducting in the chemistry lab at the time.

DSC_0030a.jpg

Coiled stoneware form. Height: 300 mm.

After I finished my doctorate, I did three years of post-doctoral research and lecturing at Chelsea College, London. As the fates would have it, the chemistry building was right next door to the Chelsea School of Art, where, much to the annoyance of my head of department, I spent as much time as I did working in the chemistry lab. At that time, I became friendly with the ceramist Barry Guppy and worked with him in his studio near the Tate for a few hours every week.

DSC_3107.jpg

Stoneware. Height: 300 mm.

I met my ex-wife at Chelsea College, where she was working on her doctorate in chemistry. She was born in Lebanon, so after she finished her Ph.D., she had a study grant obligation to go back and lecture at a university in Beirut for three years. We both had posts at the same university (her alma mater). My lecturing load was quite light, so I managed to paint a lot during those three years. We often could not go out due to the political situation, so decided to leave when I was offered a post to manage an environmental laboratory in South Africa.

After that, I joined the training team of a multinational company that manufactures environmental and forensic chemistry analytical instruments, where I traveled internationally to give training sessions until I retired. After retirement, I decided to make Johannesburg my base since my ex started a very successful construction company here, and we are now as close as brother and sister. Her high-technology manufacturing equipment is very useful when I work on my projects.

Who are your artistic influences, and have they changed over the years?
The artists I admire have been quite constant since my early years. There are so many, but apart from the usual Old Masters and more recent suspects, I can name Eduardo Paolozzi (whom I was fortunate to meet in London), Antoni Tapies, Constantin Brancusi, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Igor Mitoraj, Ernest Trova, and so many others. It’s a bit like music, where I find it almost impossible to name favourite composers.

Which mediums do you work in most and why?

I don’t enjoy painting with acrylics; my favourite paints are the alkyd variants of artist’s oil paints. I like their fast drying and good glazing properties. I think I am a better sculptor than a painter, though. I like doing ceramic pieces, but since I don’t own a kiln now and want to make bigger pieces, I do all my sculptures in rapid-set concrete now. Of course, it is also a much more immediate medium than ceramics in that the elements I make are ready in a matter of hours.

DSC_5540.jpg

Deformed Concrete Torus. Height: 600 mm.

Reclining Nude 3.jpg

Reclining Nude, concrete, width: 2000 mm.

I have experimented with concrete in paintings. Here is an example of one that echoes the dome of the contours in the Reclining Nude.

Concrete Textures 3a.jpg

Untitled, stained concrete on hardboard, 400 x 400 mm. Thickness: 10 mm.

(I have posted many photos of my work in Creative Spark, so I will not duplicate any posts here. If anyone is interested, please use the search function to find more examples.)

Can you pick your favorite tool (or two) and tell us about it?

In spite of my age, I am very comfortable using software and computers. I think it is probably because I never had any formal art education that I am not in the habit of making preliminary sketches on paper with graphite or other mediums. Instead, I do almost 100% of my designs in Windows software. I have tried many programs over the years and have found that Rhino 3D is by far my favourite, followed by Poser and ZBrush for 3D designs. To process the RAW files from my Nikon D600 camera, I use ACDSee Photo Studio, which I prefer over Lightroom for a number of reasons.

I really love to share techniques and experiences, so if anyone has any questions about my procedures, I would be happy to elaborate.

How much time do you spend on making art?

Since I am retired, I probably spend at least 60% of my time working on art projects. Remember that the type of concrete sculptures I make require careful planning of the engineering details, so much of the time is spent working out the details in my software.

Do you have a philosophy regarding the art-making process (generally or yours)?

I don’t have a philosophy of art as such, let alone a definition of art. All I can say is that I am deeply moved by certain shapes and textures, often in what I call the micro landscape. I then try, in some of the stuff I make (I avoid talking about “my art”), to express my impressions so that others can perhaps see what I see. I suppose that, for want of a better word, is my philosophy.

Tell us about where you create. Do you have a room, studio, garage?

I use the living area of my apartment as a workspace. It is big enough at 5 x 14 m, for my purposes. In it, there are some large work tables, some on casters, my big music system, a sitting/reading area, as well as a dining table with four chairs. If I have to do some really dirty work, I do it at my daughter’s house.

Outside of art, what do you do for fun?

I like to read and listen to music, almost exclusively classical. Interior design and office planning is another hobby that has also brought in some extra income over the years, but I can go into that some other time. Lastly, like most people, I enjoy good food. There are a huge number of excellent restaurants in this city, with just about any type of food you can wish for.

What has been your most satisfying accomplishment, artistic or otherwise?

Academically, it was receiving a Ph.D. after eight years of study and research, although it must be admitted that I was not just dedicated to chemistry. I was quite prepared to give up chemistry to become a student at the Central School in London and was extremely proud to be accepted as a student in the sculpture department with Eduardo Paolozzi. The reason why I did not accept and did the chemistry post-doctoral post is a story for another time.

Another highlight was when I exhibited my Dream of Mexico painting at an Art School exhibition, and the staff voted me best artist on campus.

Dream of Mexico.jpg

Dream of Mexico, oil on hardboard panel, 900 x 1200 mm.

Lastly, do you have a website and/or social media platform(s) you would like to promote?

No, I do not have a website. I don’t even have a Facebook account!
 
I'm so happy you did this interview, Andre! Your work is always amazing to me. I love seeing your paintings here. You have an impressive background, too and, oh dear, I think I'm beginning to babble! :ROFLMAO:

Excellent interview. Thank you for sharing with us! ❤️
 
exciting interview. I love your art, you are an extraordinary artist, it is nice to admire your art in these pages and discover more about your art and your path. thank you for this. good. oh, chemistry, it's the thing I've always found most difficult. I only touched her a few times, I ran away from chemistry and she ran away from me. hi it was from the second year of high school and at the beginning of the second year I changed schools, even years later I only came close to it. , perhaps not having memorized, internalized the periodic table, remained a language for which I have no basis for understanding. even if above all scientific subjects were what interested me, and history. Thanks for interview and for your art and all help on forum
 
exciting interview. I love your art, you are an extraordinary artist, it is nice to admire your art in these pages and discover more about your art and your path. thank you for this. good. oh, chemistry, it's the thing I've always found most difficult. I only touched her a few times, I ran away from chemistry and she ran away from me. hi it was from the second year of high school and at the beginning of the second year I changed schools, even years later I only came close to it. , perhaps not having memorized, internalized the periodic table, remained a language for which I have no basis for understanding. even if above all scientific subjects were what interested me, and history. Thanks for interview and for your art and all help on forum
Thank you, my friend, for your kind words. Regarding what you say about chemistry, I think, apart from the 3D structural aspect of organic chemistry that I love, what attracted me strongly to it was that there is very little one has to remember. If it is taught properly, it is not like a cookbook that has to be committed to memory. I liked that all one has to do is learn a few simple rules that determine how electrons move in a molecule. One can then apply these rules to new, unknown, situations to predict the outcomes of reactions. It's almost like playing a game like chess that has just a few basic rules one has to know. That is called the mechanistic theory of organic chemistry and it was the way I was taught and how in turn I taught it to my students.
 
Hermes, thank you very much for the clarifications and for the clarifications and clarifications for the chemistry, clear and interesting thank you. Ma had liked a statistics exam because at least for that program little information was enough to remember to carry out the exercises. like equations in middle school as a child. In chemistry I remember that they started by asking me to memorize the periodic table and then some things, but then it was the first few weeks, I didn't have time to really get to know the subject. It happened that I changed school for something else and I didn't find chemistry for years. at university one year it was chemistry for agriculture but it wasn't the university I would have chosen and they started there if I already had a foundation in chemistry. in the last studies I did it was not a subject of study.
I don't know if I would have been able to understand enough but I actually think this was a very fascinating subject too.
 
Hi André, I'm so pleased to virtually meet you. Very interesting to read about your life and how you came to be such a good artist. I have always admired your concrete sculptures and it is nice to see your other works here. We're glad you found us all here.
 
Hi André, I'm so pleased to virtually meet you. Very interesting to read about your life and how you came to be such a good artist. I have always admired your concrete sculptures and it is nice to see your other works here. We're glad you found us all here.
Thank you so much for calling me a good artist! I can tell you I was very glad to find this lovely group of like-minded people and felt at home almost immediately.
 
André, I was very impressed with your art and your interview. Since I have my fingers in a lot of pies, I am not on forums often, and must look at more of your work here. (Like you, I do not have social media accounts.) Your pieces are so different and unique to each other. My faves are Dream of Mexico, because of the composition and shapes. Deformed Concrete Torus and Reclining Nude are very well planned and executed. It amazes me with your talent and background that you do not do preliminary sketches on paper. Your accomplished works must take quite a deal of planning.

Our backgrounds share some similarities. I was a pre-med major, with a Chem minor. (But I couldn't do a Hayworth projection now to save my life.) Your intellectual capacities are amazing, as I would not have had time to pursue any studio classes in undergrad and medical school and keep up with labs and studies. This really brought back memories of sitting in Organic lectures nearly half a century ago, with a bow-tied professor. The textbook was Morrison & Boyd; do students even use paper books at all now? So, today, I finally get to ask the question of you I wanted to ask the prof on the last day, but he did not appear to have a good sense of humor. What do all of those little "Cs" you have been using all year in diagrams stand for? 😜 :devilish:
 
Joy, I am glad that my reminiscences brought back some of your own chemistry-related memories. I am also pleased to hear that you like some of my pieces. Yes, I don't use traditional media like pencils and paper much (but occasionally I do put quick ideas down on paper); I tend to design and work out details on screen in my favourite Windows applications.

You are correct: I had to walk a dangerous tightrope of time management, but my strong desire to do creative work somehow made me survive. I was pretty dedicated to my research as well and slept on the floor near my bench many nights while conducting long kinetic reaction studies. I know Morrison & Boyd well, along with all the other classics. It may interest you to know that I got to know Derek Barton, the Nobel Prize winner, well, since he was my ex wife's professor. He was also my own external examiner for my PhD.

Speaking of questions, I love your one about the Cs :ROFLMAO:. My students often asked me what I thought the most dangerous organic molecule was. I always told them it was this one you may remember from pre-med:

Testosterone 1.png


Testosterone
 
Last edited:
André, Your creativity is immensely admired. It is fascinating to me that you have such talents in both science and art. I never would have been capable of studying the sciences and doing art at the same time in my life. Even though I was always interested in art, I never really did much until near retirement. Perhaps if I "started" at a younger age, I would have an artistic vision and imagination such as yours. Interpretation of a subject is difficult for me, as I want to be too literal. In the few workshops I attended when starting to paint, the other attendees stated they could tell I can from a highly technical background by my questions.
 
Joy, thank you again, but I really only think of myself as a butterfly that flits from one pretty flower to the next. The saying "Jack of all trades, master of none", springs to mind.
 
I always had a strange attraction to chemistry and biology, and science in general--specifically physics on the molecular level, but me stupid. I'd have to know some basic math in the first place in order to move on to something as vast as physics, large or small. So, I watch a lot of science shows. :ROFLMAO: That's about all I can do. I didn't go to college, let alone grammar skool, but I am still attracted to these subjects and understand bits and pieces. I was able to memorize some of the periodic table, even what some of the atomic weights were at one point (when I was younger), but then forgot most of it. :ROFLMAO: Oh well. So, I live vicariously through André. ;)
 
Hi André, aka Hermes. Fascinating interview and it's always so interesting to see how a person's background influences their artwork. I am not at all surprised to learn that you are so well-educated and I'm guessing that your background in organic chemistry influences your work somehow. It's all beyond my capabilities but I know that there's a connection between the graceful shapes you create and those dreaded equations that I could never balance. I'm just grateful that your chemistry building was next door to the art building so all of your artistic talent had an outlet. I hope the bird feeder is coming along!
 
Hi André, aka Hermes. Fascinating interview and it's always so interesting to see how a person's background influences their artwork. I am not at all surprised to learn that you are so well-educated and I'm guessing that your background in organic chemistry influences your work somehow. It's all beyond my capabilities but I know that there's a connection between the graceful shapes you create and those dreaded equations that I could never balance. I'm just grateful that your chemistry building was next door to the art building so all of your artistic talent had an outlet. I hope the bird feeder is coming along!
Donna, thank you for your observations. Yes, there is a deep connection between my shapes and organic chemistry, in that the shapes of organic molecules and even their mirror images have a direct effect on how they interact with their surroundings. This architectural nature of organic chemistry must have resonated with my genetic make-up in some way to attract me to that branch of chemistry. I am in large agreement with C. P. Snow's ideas on the Two Cultures. I think enlightened people don't necessarily need an in-depth knowledge of the sciences or the arts, but should at least have an awareness of important matters like Impressionism or the laws of thermodynamics.
 
You make ceramics and your paintings as well are brilliant Art indeed. This is such an unexpected biography, I can only imagine the Art from the places you live and work, and the Art you show if top of the line.
 
Back
Top