From an interview with Barbara O'Brien,
Montserrat College of Art Gallery


A painting starts with a moment of energy that is uncontrolled, dynamic, very concentrated. Then, I let the painting influence me. I try to respond to what my hand or my brush shows me. This can be as much a surprise to me as to any other viewer.

I very strongly believe that a painting has its own reality. Of course, I draw inspiration from various sources, but I feel that ultimately a painting has to work as an individual unit - a world on its own.

One typical way of organizing my paintings, my thoughts actually, is using a Mondrianesque grid. It helps to be able to focus on a little area and make it as good as you can without getting lost in the space of a huge canvas or the tiny corner of a drawing.

The series "Das Lied von der Erde" (The Song of the Earth) is very much about rhythm and very much about sound that we cannot hear.

Bern Haussmann
RECOLLECT

by Suzanne Deats

Few artists have the courage to begin every work of art on a clean slate, with no preliminary plan whatsoever. Fewer still can do so and maintain total integrity. Bernd Haussmann faces the nothingness that is blank canvas, wood, metal, or other surfaces, and listens to his thoughts until a direction appears in his mind. Then he picks up his brush, and a subtle conversation begins. “As people get to know each other by talking,” he says, “I get to know the painting by painting it.” At a certain point, the dialog resolves itself and a work of art is revealed as a record of that process.

Haussmann builds up layers that hint at something beneath the surface. That something may be psychological, or may go even deeper and allude to eternal verities. Various forms appear, some positioned as color fields that organize the composition and some looped organically like recurring memories. Staccato blips underscore the electric chirr and crackle of contemporary consciousness that brings the work alive.

As Haussmann proceeds, the dialog is widened to include the eventual viewer. The painting becomes accessible in the sense that it furnishes suggestions and invites participation. “There is always an underlying principle that I want to share with you,” he says. “What you make of it depends on what information I put into the painting. This is important for the way I look at art or life in general. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know the truth, but I make my doubts and questions and my very strong opinions visible – almost surgically bare, if one looks closely. The more information and energy I put into the painting, the more it will resonate with the viewer. Painting, to me, is an energy exchange as well as a communication. A lot of people feel some connection when they look at my art.”

Haussmann makes no distinction between his life and his art. “I am who I am,” he says, “and that is what I paint. I live my art. Art is a lifestyle – it is what I believe, and it defines me even as I create it. What is important to me is sharing my thoughts and beliefs, and keeping an eye on the cultural and political and social environment as our earth progresses.”

The physical environment is a matter of intense concern as well. Haussmann divides his time between the Boston area and rural Maine, where he contributes to the building of a nature preserve and creates environmental sculptures. His paintings, though rigorously abstract, reflect that same dedication. They are saturated with the atmosphere of the natural world. “I want to show you the fragile environment, the intensity of connection that you experience when you go outdoors,” says Haussmann. “I hope to make people more sensitive, more aware, more critical of the world that surrounds us.” His paintings shimmer in silence while the conversation that produced them continues, communicating many shades and nuances of information to each person who pauses to interact with them.

Maine, August 2006


Critics on Haussmann's work

… Die Arbeiten des "jetzt in Boston lebenden Künstlers zeugen von Behutsamkeit und Geduld. … Langsam wachsend fügen sich die Kompositionen und werden dann in aller Vorläufigkeit in die Welt entlassen. Auf Endgültigkeit wird nicht gepocht. Das Wachsen weiß auch bereits vom Verschwinden…"
(Südwestpresse, Tübingen 1997)

"… Bernd Haussmann uses an alphabet of icons to spell out visceral messages. … the artist makes no proclamations, just painterly intimations of wholeness and peace -(things after all so fragile and subtle that a proclamation would chase them away…)"
(Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe 8/1997)

"… Haussmann's pieces provide a balm to … anger. The artist has a lexicon of images for his philosophies, which he draws with a painterly hand. (These images) … stand amid layers of pale paint … arguing that not everything on earth is going to hell in a handbasket."
(Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe 9/1997)

"… Haussman captures the look and feel of nature in his paintings. And he uses his works to explore more than just the outdoors; he examines history and origins. … Rich in color, texture and design, Haussmann's works are warm and evocative."
(Mary K. Fitch, Arts on the North Shore, Salem Evening News, 1997)

"… The single blade of grass in his paintings holds the energy of the human torso. The collage element … represents the integration of the human body. … The duality of the forms calls to mind the separate, yet intimately linked relationship of humans and nature, passion and order, life and death. The mythic and the intimate are linked …"
(Barbara O'Brien Director of the Gallery and Visiting Artist Program, Montserrat College of Art, Curator of "Tender Allies: The Biophilia Connection", Montserrat College of Art 1999)

"Haussmann invites us to face moments of beauty, conflict and truth. The truth is in the small moments - on the edge of a drawing or in the corner of a painting. …"
(Barbara O'Brien, Director of the Gallery and Visiting Artist Program, Montserrat College of Art: Bernd Haussmann, Das Lied von der Erde, Chase Gallery catalog 2000)

"… Haussmann's abstract works are layered with paint and then scratched, with the result that they appear to bring with them their own history, graffiti etched in the same era as an ancient ruin. "The Beginning, the End and the Time in Between" hints at experience and time, history's foundation, as an almost tender revelation. … Haussmann's formal painterly abilities are as powerful on wood, steel, canvas, plaster or paper."
(Eileen Kennedy, artsMEDIA 2000)

"… Currently on display at William Campbell Contemporary Art, "Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)", delves not only into the nature of things, but also into the artistic process as diaphanous layers of paint openly reveal the evolution of each work. Haussmann's work is very effective at urging the viewer to see beyond beauty, mistakes, creation and decay as he reveals the source under each layer. …
(Kendra McCown, Star-Telegramm 4/2001)

"Bernd Haussmann's abstract paintings at the Chase Gallery take a dramatic and colorful turn from the past work. The artist belongs in the lineage of abstract expressionists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning, who emblazoned their souls on canvas with paintbrushes…"
(Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe 10/2001)

 

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