Some Reviews



Paintings from a world of ‘unlogic’

An extraordinary exhibition of paintings and drawings by Gerald Shepherd is on show at the University of Surrey’s Library Gallery until February 2.

In an heroic attempt to fuse art and science, Shepherd has invented a new. pictorial form – “process art”. The result, is a room full of highly detailed, very puzzling pictures constructed in such a novel way that they look like the creations of some quite separate culture.

A dedicated artist and an avid follower of the latest scientific developments, Shepherd has. devised an art form which develops rather like a pictorial equation to explore the dizzy metaphysical worlds of nuclear physics, biochemistry or advanced computer technology.

Inspired with almost missionary zeal. he has also formed the Ionist Art Group

to promote closer links between artists and scientists world-wide.

Titles such as. Vectors Trapped ln Scalars or Announcing Binarlogues may turn the simple art lover a bit weak at the knees, but fortunately a maths degree is not an essential aid to proper pictorial enjoyment. The titles, like the compositions, are grandiose but essentially light-hearted and the pictures can be enjoyed on a number of different levels.

Through his “process” paintings. Shepherd takes images from the real world and breaks them down into constituent parts in strip cartoon-like sequences of carefully drawn mini-pictures.

A single composition may contain more than a 100 tiny ideograms which follow on from one another in long strips, twisting and turning across the picture plane. Random numbers and arrows weave about the strips to further promote a sense of orderly progression, but close inspection reveals that these works spring from a gleefully surreal Lewis Carroll world of “unlogic” rather than a dry exploration of scientific concepts.

Shepherd describes the creation of his bizarre hieroglyphic sequences as “a bit like pushing snowballs downhill.” Certainly you can sense his imagination gaining speed as the original starting images metamorphose into scores of startling permutations, ranging from fire breathing dragons to disembodied forests of arms, in their steady progression across the picture plane.

Many of these “process” paintings are laid out like board games, but only one, A Modern Odyssey, deliberately mimics that form. Based on Homer’s Odyssey but substituting the marvelous monsters of science for the original mythical beings encountered, the composition resembles a Monty Pythonesque cross between Scrabble and Snakes and Ladders.

Colour has become progressively more important in Shepherd’s work and some of the most recent compositions feature strips of hieroglyphs stacked in separate, brightly coloured layers which resemble glowing oriental carpet designs.

Found” objects also play a part in stimulating the artist’s imagination. One painting in homage to Chagall evolved from a panel with an attached plank which has been sanded down and had mixed media worked into it to create an overall “aged” appearance similar to that of a mysterious ancient wall painting excavated from a lost world.

Beatrice Phillpotts



22nd April 10th May 1991

The many and varied exhibitions of paintings shown at the Loggia during the past years pay tribute to the broadness of vision exercised by the Free Painters and Sculptors in their acceptance of experimental works of art. In view of this, most visitors to the gallery expect to see work of a more controversial nature than the straight flower-piece or portrait.

The twenty-eight paintings and drawings presented by the artist GERALD SHEPHERD generously provided the means by which these expectations could be realized. The artist’s work had no direct link with past modes of thought, but it seemed in my view to fall somewhere between Indian or Oriental art and the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians. Painstakingly, and with great precision, most of the work was arranged in a kind of Board Game/Strip Cartoon style with numbers, arrows, animals and abstract designs pigeon-holed within various compartments. The detailed shapes within these compartments seemed to have more importance attached to them than to the picture as a whole, thus presenting a challenge to the intellect, and relegating aesthetic appreciation to a secondary position. This was, however, compensated slightly by the colour and general design of the compositions.

Gerald Shepherd’s statement to the effect that his paintings are near unsolvable mysteries even after being read, prompted me to resist further analysis and to allow my mind to wander through this maze of seemingly illogical symbols and wonder if, maybe, these were the manifestations of the unrelated thought forms that flow continuously through the human mind, woven into a colourful and attractive pattern. This was substantiated when I came upon the painting entitled ‘Three figures in a Lane’. ‘The Light of the World’ was also an interesting work. It had, I think, something of the Last Supper concealed within its orange, pink, red and yellow confines. This interpretation is probably way off course – in which case my apologies to the artist.

I greatly admired the paintings in the front hall which were, I thought, the most stimulating in the show. The absence of colour in these particular compositions was to their advantage. The exhibition on the whole was successful inasmuch as it was thought-provoking, often frustrating but always challenging and exciting – appealing probably to people with a leaning towards the sciences rather than to the pure aesthetic. I congratulate Gerald for his inventiveness and for pulling on a show that was different and, which aroused such vigorous discussion.

E. T.’

(Edward Taylor)


16th November – 4th December 1992

Finally I come to the paintings of Gerald Shepherd. Just a quick glance at the titles of these works gives something of a clue of what to expect. I choose three at random, “Salisbury Plainsong”, “Many Burials between Birth and Death”, “Sound Visualization with Echo over Narcissus”.

The paintings are graphic in style and execution, and personal in language. When one talks about paintings, or In this case writes about them, one seeks out comparisons in order to explain them. I hesitate to do so for these because I believe Gerald Shepherd is working out a language of his own. But just for starters let me point to hieroglyphics or ideograms, comic strips. Mathematical or biological diagrams and so on. This seems to be the area of play in his work. Sometimes they are restrained like “Saga”, which I liked, at other times frenetic and dense in textural references. The mixing of what I read as main and secondary signals with almost casual doodles in one sequential image was daring and effective.


Although I have to admit that I am not sure that what I read in the pictures was always what was intended, I assume that this is part of the nature of the work. In some ways the paintings have the appearance of a sheet of music, and, not unlike musical composition, present a theme and subject,

then proceed to develop it. Recapitulate it and finally resolve it.

I would myself have liked to have seen some works on a larger scale, maybe Gerald Shepherd has some, I do not know – but I feel there is a potential in his work which could be explored on a larger scale. I do in fact mean at a mural scale, but there you go. I am fantasizing again on someone else’s behalf and maybe I should shut up and try and resolve my own problems. Anyway a very interesting show and I look forward to the next installment.

Brian Yale




Gerald Shepherd, an idiosyncratic artist concerned with the fusion of art and science which he called “Process Art”. His compositions contained a mass of ideograms which were contained within waves and stripes related to some referential image within the picture plane. His paintings were outside the scope of what is normally understood as painting. In an aesthetic sense they were beautiful, and most people could only see them in that way, for they required reading, and yet remained mysteries.

Roy Rasmussen


GERALD SHEPHERD’s contribution to this show is very much in his usual manner. the artist’s preoccupation with masses of tiny hieroglyphic figures is both fascinating and challenging. I have often heard him talk about his work when he has made it clear that, for him, painting is as much an intellectual as an emotional activity. I feel sure that his is a very personal language, and there may be elements in his creative processes which we cannot fully comprehend. But, for me, Gerald’s vision is of an essentially well-ordered universe, one where simple logic transcends, and where the identity of truth and beauty is manifest. I feel a curious sense of comfort and assurance when I look at the hieroglyphs, and this in no way abates when they are surrounded by a blue chaos, as in ‘Variations on an Amorphous Theme. His is a kind of Chestertonian cosmos, in which good old common sense assumes a god-like stature. The artist is essentially a communicator, and in ‘Script’ he is not afraid to use actual lettering, as did the early Cubists. In one piece -‘Improvisation at June’s – did I get a sense that the painter was at the receiving end. What is going on, here? Gerald could tell us, of course, but my impression was of a wild party which had been gate-crashed, but this had not discomposed the resourceful and charismatic hostess! There is a frenzy of colour in this picture, but also a sense that the cool, clear mind of the artist has imposed a meaningful pattern on it all.

Philip Worth


20 April – 10 May 1996

The day that GERALD SHEPHERD runs out of ideas will leave the FPS much the poorer. He conveys a restless almost mathematical energy, with all his works composed entirely of tiny diagrams – and I defy anyone to find that he has repeated himself. Particularly amusingis ‘The Biopsy’ in which a simple figure (presumably a surgeon?) is holding a panel on which is a mass of small designs, rather like pieces of machinery. If this represents the patient, I fear for the diagnosis! ‘Prelude and Postlude’ is an exercise in a masterly control of colour, with over 80 small triangles subtly graded so that they become more brilliant towards the right side of the painting, which is presumably the ‘Postlude’.

Freda Wadsworth


GERALD SHEPHERD: I could repeat much of the above in relationship to these paintings. But rather than pointing out Sutherland, etc., it would be the surrealist I take note of, Wadsworth, Hillier, etc. These paintings are calligraphic in nature and have to be read. I did respond to ‘Sequential Landscape’, and the manner and style of the work made me think it would be a study for a mural painting, not that anybody seems to want murals much now.

Brian Yale



Six Artists” (22 April-12 May 2000)

In the case of GERALD SHEPHERD’s highly ingenious constructs, the subtle use of hundreds of tiny hieroglyphs is an ever-recurring and most distinctive feature. This is a very personal language feel. which the artist has perfected in the course of his career, and which can give his own unique meaning to any subject. For example, an analysis of two contrasting themes, Still Life – Improvisation and ‘Waterfall – Compton Acres (Meditation)” will reveal that they are both integrated with similar series of diminutive icons, yet their placing on the picture surface gives to each an entirely different character. When I last reviewed Gerald’s work (Newsletter June 1995)1 commented that “his vision is of an essentially well-ordered universe … in which good old common-sense assumes a god-like stature”. I have not changed this view, but it is a gut feeling, and the language remains an enigma. There is a surreal quality about this work, full of strange juxtapositions, but suggesting a deeper truth. The “good order’ I referred to five years ago is there, but remains unseen, which is its fascination.

Philip Worth



Tuesday 12th September – Friday 6th October

Shepherd has been working out a language of his own since the 1970s. He paints in a graphic manner infused with glowing bright colours, combining art, symbolism and science with hieroglyphics or ideograms, comic strips, mathematical and biological symbols. It is difficult to make comparisons between him and other artists except for the mimicking of other cultures and in particular indian and aboriginal communicative painting.

Steve Maclaurin

Tuesday 22nd January – Saturday 23rd February

Gerald Shepherd returns to the Centre with a completely new set of paintings. He is a prodigious worker who paints daily. Much of the work he has produced in 2001 explores holistic landscapes that integrate observation with the analytical procedures he has been working on since the 1970s. The graphic style that he developed has now shifted somewhat from his early work to a more fluid and emotional response to his surroundings. He has been particularly inspired and attracted by gardens and places of interest in the South of England. These he lavishly infuses with bright colours and in a more subtle way than before incorporates his own language of symbols and signs. It is difficult to root his work within any particular genre or style.

Steve Maclaurin


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