Max Heller

As you may have read elsewhere, Max Heller is really just an extension of Ivan Berryman's imagination, an escape from his usual art style and content. In his own words:

"It is a very liberating thing. As soon as you remove yourself from everyone's expectations and mask yourself with a new name and personality, it frees your mind to do all sorts of stuff and explore areas of your personality and psyche that may have stayed suppressed and hidden until now. It doesn't necessarily mean that you discover your dark side, more that you start to confront things and depict them in a very cathartic way. Even in the darkest and gloomiest Heller paintings, there is always a hint of humour, irony or sarcasm."

Heller's creativity has spread into media other than just paintings and drawings. Fascinated by Paganism, history, mythology and a love of the forest, he has created a series of sculpted mythological creatures, from forest fairies and imps to some very odd woodland creepy-crawlies. Most successful of all have been his 'Bumpkins', championed by Ned and Twiggy, which exist as paintings and prints as well as sculpted figurines. "These naughty little entities are exclusive to the Isle of Wight and live and forage among the leaves and cobwebs in the many old barns that exist on our beautiful island. They grow among the Sycamores and apples and are born when they drop in the Autumn."

And then there are the dolls, among them Philomena and Rosebud who, together with the bumpkins and other forest creatures, adorn the artist's living room, much to the surprise of visitors!

But paintings and prints are the mainstay of Max Heller's output and most of his somewhat quirky images have meanings or stories behind them. Some carry their own message, but the main strength of these paintings is their ambiguity which allows the viewer to interpret them in their own way. This, in turn, becomes a magical form of Chinese Whispers through art, with everyone putting their own spin on each picture.

"Heller became a bit of a monster to me in the early 2000s. I didn't let on that these paintings were actually by me, Ivan Berryman, and allowed the myth of Max Heller to grow and grow until it became a bit of a problem and I realised that I was having to lie a lot to people, which seemed unkind and underhand. Eventually, I confronted all my previous Heller customers with the truth. Some felt privileged to know, others weren't in the least surprised, but everyone enjoyed the masquerade - and still do!"

Anyway, have a browse through the gallery of original paintings and the Heller print store here and maybe treat yourself to something a little different. And feel free to ask which artist is in residence today - Ivan or Max.