Walking through a hall of mirrors where your most familiar image becomes refracted to the point of abstraction can be disorienting. But the transitory experience is also a point of departure that creates a liberating context in which to interpret the visible fragments in their own element. “The abstract is more about the observable world, the reality of it [and] what happens in the abstraction of thought and feeling in your reaction to something that you see in the real world. That’s where my work comes in…the response to sight, thought and emotion.”
John Haubrich is embracing both additive and subtractive processes to render panels that are free from representation despite being autobiographical narratives. He’s adding to scratch away in order to create landscapes grounded in floral elements. He’s a constant gardener: planning, attempting to control but ultimately succumbing to natural process.
He started his career painting photo-realistically, but has abandoned representation for a more visceral connection instead. His body of work started contemplative and meditative with panels like “Todo y Nada” and “Prometheus,” but have since evolved to a happier place. The latter was “inspired by a billboard that had rusted…I started thinking about stone, rust and decay…this transfer was done from New York Times Magazine pages…the ink goes into the gesso and polymer emulsion immediately. I didn’t even have to wait for things to dry. I could just start peeling them off. And because the paper is so porous, the ink would go right in. I wanted to make these pieces as abstract as possible. I didn’t want recognizable images in them…and once I pulled it off, I would still get some image there…and I like that duality of ‘is it real or abstract or both? Is it just viewing or thinking and emotionally responding?’”
Now he’s articulating a more celebratory mood. The colors are bright, vivacious and unique but there’s nothing campy about it. They are not shouting at you so much as they are shouting to you to join them in a moment when vulnerabilities can be checked at the door. It begins by Haubrich abstracting an image—mostly floral or fauna, and often roses—in Photoshop. He might knock out the background to reduce the digitized information to its most elemental form. That image is enlarged and printed out in 11×17 inch sections. Those tiles are applied to the canvas and covered by a gesso poly-emulsion glue-like substance that draws the ink out of the paper and transfers it onto the canvas.
Like most discoveries, the process came as a surprise. The artist’s materials spilled accidentally and he started to use it, layering upon it with paint, crayon, pencil or taking away with his fingers. “What you get is a lot of dimension happening with the layering so that you can go into the piece but then also there’s a surface to it too…I have two- and three-dimensional happening back and forth.” Haubrich loves the emotional tension created by the visual push-pull and the idea of the rose typifies this for him. The inherent threat of the thorns among something so perfectly beautiful feeds the artist’s quest for reality. That yin-yang of pleasure and pain, frailty and power, life and death and the cyclical nature of time passing are his guiding tropes.
Going forward, Haubrich will continue to explore the corners of his soul and they will continue to find their way to the canvases. The element of risk will likely also continue to evolve as the palette grows bolder and the works grow larger. “Music is very emotional to me. And the more expansive it is, the more I like it…these pieces are really physical. I’m using my arms a lot. I’m drawing a lot. I’m listening to the music and I’m imagining the music while I’m working…the whole background for this abstraction was to the way I was drawn to reminisce of things like the billboard posters on walls that had been torn away, what was left behind. I respond to that type of visual imagery very strongly…decay, passage, beauty…there was a real beauty in this decay in that it was transitional and there was nothing good or bad about it.”