Erik Laubscher - Foreword to 2004 Exhibition with Jacobus Kloppers and Walter Meyer
“There is no safer way of avoiding the world than through art, and there is no safer way of being linked with the world than through art.” - Goethe.
Experiencing the landscape is a spiritual experience for Erik Laubscher. His paintings become the poetic language of his emotions – the experience of his reaction to the vastness and varying contrasts of the South African landscape. He transforms lines, shapes, colours and textures to unify them into ordered structures. In this way he identifies with the emotional force of the landscape in order to capture his experience of it in an image. The final result is a celebration of the magnitude and expansiveness of the land.
He openly admits that he cannot paint if he is not enthralled by the forms, contrasting elements and atmosphere that he perceives before him. These are the elements of his composition. In composition emotion is transformed into logic. It is on the canvas and with his colour palette that he arranges his inner perceptions.
This year is the sixtieth year that Laubscher has been involved in depicting the South African landscape. Yet he remains a scout and an explorer of new perspectives that speak to him in new ways. In this way familiar scenes, specifically in the Overberg and Swartland, are the source of new discoveries. He is constantly refining his powers of observation. In recent decades he has returned repeatedly to the same scenes in an attempt to come closer to the intrinsic essence of his experience. This is what he embodies in composition.
He speaks of luck as a factor in capturing a specific experience in a landscape. When he travels around the Overberg or Swartland, his eye is like that of a photographer. For him luck lies in being at a certain place at a certain time to capture an image in a single second that can communicate something new and different.
As an artist he becomes a seismograph of the infinite moods of the landscape. For him it is sufficient to have the privilege of representing a few of these moods through his experience.
He speaks of luck as a factor in capturing a specific experience in a landscape. When he travels around the Overberg or Swartland, his eye is like that of a photographer. For him luck lies in being at a certain place at a certain time to capture an image in a single second that can communicate something new and different. As an artist he becomes a seismograph of the infinite moods of the landscape. For him it is sufficient to have the privilege of representing a few of these moods through his experience.
This exhibition provides another opportunity to witness Laubscher as the visual articulator of a particular landscape. He works with what he experiences visually and emotionally, and concentrates it to its poetic essence. The magical power of his art lies in the way that it creates space for the personal experience of others in interpreting a particular region.
In the Overberg series of paintings from 2003 – on this exhibition – the particular challenge for him was to work on a smaller scale using different media – water-paint and pastels in addition to oils. In September 2003 he was in the vicinity of Caledon/Riviersonderend one day. In the following weeks ten sketches became ten works on exhibition. He puts this so simply when he says: “My eye catches something and it stays in my head.” When he recalls these impressions in his studio, he transforms them into colour, atmosphere and form in order to give them shape in composition in a unique way.
Another series of paintings arose from a similar exploration in the Moorreesburg and Riebeeck-West vicinity. In the vastness of the Swartland environment he, as artist, is often taken by surprise. The abstract contrasting shapes virtually loom up on the horizon. The stripped quality and barrenness of the open expanses are transformed monumentally by an expected light, cloud or mountains in the distant background. The enchantment of such discoveries offers Laubscher the reward of paintings of this particular vicinity that are already a hallmark of his artistry.
Realism is transformed into abstraction. Arresting patterns in the landscape are juxtaposed, which produces a monumental depiction on canvas of an intense experience of the landscape. Just as important as form and structure are colour, light and the creation of a particular atmosphere. The crux of the matter for Laubscher is the essence of the experience, not the sentiment evoked by a picturesque scene.
His experience is located in the expanses of the South African landscape where it is possible, as it were, to breathe freely – in his sensory perception of it and on the canvas.
Lausbcher’s still life paintings are a supplement to his landscape studies. Here the basic training and understanding he absorbed from the French master, Fernand Léger, remain the point of reference.
The things he learned in Léger’s studio in the 1950s in Paris remain the dicta according to which Laubscher works. He has adapted Léger’s rules and guidelines as the basis of his own work. In the still life paintings this finds expression in the grouping of objects in order to achieve maximum expressiveness. What emerges in the composition must be the logical consequence of the arrangement of lines, shapes and colour. In order to achieve this state of orderly intensity, particular contrasts must be played off against one another. As for Léger, for Laubscher the essence of the composition lies in weighing up contrasting values against one another.
Movement, volume and tension created by the contrasting elements are the dominant features of Laubscher’s work. His still life paintings are refined studies produced by a sharp eye and spirit. He penetrates through the ordinary to represent it in an excitingly new way. His compositions have their own passionate language in which he magically transforms the ordinary into a sensual ecstasy of new discovery. The poetic element is sensitively controlled so that form and shape become visual adventures.
The works on this exhibition depict an inner power through their attachment to the South African – and specifically Western Cape – soil. His work converts the vastness and expansiveness of the landscape into levels of colour and shapes that fill the viewer with ecstasy. The experience becomes a celebration of an unbreakable bond with the land.
It is not possible to miss this integrity in Erik Laubscher’s work – it is the hallmark of his honest experience as an artist. What strikes one is the precise image, the pure power of the emotion and the indisputable craftsmanship.
Born Tulbagh, Cape Province.
1946 – 1947
Studied under Maurice van Essche at Continental School of Art.
1948 – 1949
Studied portrait drawing under Frank Slater RA in London and then attended the Anglo – French Art Centre, London where John Minton and Claude Venard also taught and exhibited.
1950 – 1951
Académie Montmartre, Paris under Fernand Léger.
Returned to South Africa and married Claude Bouscharain.
Settled in Cape Town.
Taught with Alfred Krenz in Stellenbosch.
Elected member of the New Group.
1953 – 1955
Head of the Contemporary School of art, Cape Town.
Co-founded the Cape Salon with Marjorie Wallace.
First South African artist to receive a Carnegie Grant - spent three months on a tour of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and Washington, studying art movements in the USA.
Appointed Director of the Cape Town Art Centre, Green Point.
Founded the Ruth Prowse Art Centre, Woodstock, Cape Town.
Awarded the Cape Arts Medal by the S.A.A.A. for Contributions to Art.
Appointed to the Board of Trustees, Michaelis Collection, Old Town House, Cape Town.
Co-Founder and initiator, with Bruce Arnott, of the Artists’ Guild.
Founder member of Cape Arts Forum.
1987 - 1990
Appointed to the Board of Trustees of the S.A.National Gallery.
Awarded the ‘Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns’ ‘Besondere Erepenning vir Skilderkuns.’
Cape Tercentenary Foundation Award for outstanding contribution to the Visual Arts as Creative Artist and Teacher.
Honorary Life President of the Ruth Prowse School of Art,“In Recognition of over Thirty years of Service to the Ruth Prowse School of Art and the Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and Art Community of South Africa.”
Cite’ International des Arts, Paris - renewed interest in still life and interior painting.
Participated in numerous group exhibitions from 1950 in France, SA, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Belgium and the USA. Solo exhibitions held in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and in Geneva, Switzerland.
Solo exhibition in Gallery Motte, Geneva, Switzerland.
Works selected for Sao Paulo Bienal.
1960 and 1964
University of Stellenbosch, Retrospective Exhibition.
SAAA Gallery, Cape Town, joint exhibition with June te Water.
Cape Town Biennial, Invited Artist.
Republic Festival Exhibition.
University of Stellenbosch, solo exhibition.
Drostdy Centre, Stellenbosch, joint exhibition with Claude Bouscharain and Stanley Pinker.
Young Pioneers of the 1950’s exhibition at the Bellville Association of Arts
Major Retrospective exhibition of 140 paintings, drawings and photographs 1944 to 1994 in the SASOL Museum and US Gallery, University of Stellenbosch (25 June to 31st July).
Solo invitation exhibition Association of Arts, Worcester.
Solo exhibition including some earlier works at the Irma Stern Museum Gallery.
Three-man Exhibition with Jacobus Kloppers and Walter Meyer, Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town.
Sanlam, SASOL, S.A.National Gallery, SABC, Standard Bank, Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, General Mining, Rembrandt Art Foundation, JCI, ABSA Bank, S.A. Fine Worsteds, Norwich Union, Pretoria Art Gallery, William Humphreys Gallery (Kimberley), Hester Rupert Gallery (Graaff-Reinet), S.A. Reserve Bank, First National Bank, N.B.S.(Cape Town), CSIR, Old Mutual, Bloemfontein Art Gallery, Cape of Good Hope Bank, Investec, Constitutional Court (Midrand), KWV, SANTAM, Ellerman House, Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, BMD Knitting Mills, Renwick International, M & L Distributors, Barclays Bank, Telkom, Didata, Deutsche Bank, Anglo-Platinum, Universities of Cape Town, Orange Free State, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Witwatersrand.
Terrazzo mural ‘Bon Esperance’, Beach Road, Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town.
Tapestry for Nico Malan Theatre, Cape Town.
Mural (acrylic), Johannesburg International Airport.
4 Mosaic panels, Tygerberg Hospital.
Mosaic panel, Melville Shopping Centre, Knysna.
2 Mural panels, Medical Faculty Foyer, Tygerberg.
Hirt & Carter Calendar with Anthony Johnson (3rd Quarter).
Tapestry for Norwich Union, H.Q. Claremont, Cape Town.
Contribution to S.A.Fine Worsted’s Calendar.
KWV Calendar (12 reproductions).
Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees.
© Johans Borman Fine Art