Erik Laubscher “The Landscapes” - A Selection of Paintings from 1946-2012
by Phillippa Duncan
“His experience is located in the expanses of the South African landscape where it is possible, as it were, to breathe freely – [both] in his sensory perception of it and on the canvas.” (1)
When Laubscher returned to South Africa in 1950 from France he became known for his “bold use of glowing and resonant colour…and the capacity to absorb the influence of contemporary masters without being mesmerized by their personal idiosyncrasies…”(2). His still life compositions, in which he acknowledged the influence of Bernard Buffet, were exhibited alongside the works of the more established New Group in Cape Town.
It was during a holiday to Bushman’s River Mouth in 1953 that Laubscher began drawing the local Euphorbia forests (3). Deciding that pencil was not suited to the subject, he used a charcoal of his own manufacture. It was these drawings that created the framework for the body of works which signalled the breakaway from the eloquent but Eurocentric post-Paris still lifes. It was also here that Laubscher made his first strides towards abstraction by filling in spaces between the foliage with flat planes of pure colour
The landscapes of the 1950s through to the 1970s, varied in their application of abstraction, clearly showed Laubscher’s assimilation of the Surrealist strategy adopted by Fernand Leger. The visual language applied by Laubscher of weighing contrasting planes against one another, in order to achieve a state of orderly intensity, were applied in representational forms as well as abstract compositions. One of the works which Laubscher sent to the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1959 was described as a “landmark” (4) piece. In this work, simply titled Composition, strong black forms are laid over other more colourful shapes. Rather than overpowering, they provide additional viewpoints and miniature landscapes within the composition. This heralded the starting point of his “Hard Edge” landscapes which were to dominate his output for the following two decades.
For a period of fifteen years Laubscher juggled his role as artist with that of paint salesman. He worked for the Plascon paint company between 1955 and 1970 and while he admitted this infringed on his creative output he also acknowledged that it provided him and his family with the financial security his art was not able to do at that time. It was also this employment which saw him frequent the roads to small towns and familiarize himself with the landscape of the Klein Karoo, Cedarberg, Swartland and surrounds. These trips, coupled with family camping holidays, afforded Laubscher new visual stimulation. The patchwork of farmers’ crops, dirt roads, power line punctuations, the surreal intensity of the colours and the undulation of the landscape interspersed with man-made interjections became meditative spaces which Laubscher then translated to canvas.
This exhibition of his works at EBONY/CURATED came together in order to fulfill one of Laubscher’s wishes - a review of his landscapes spanning his career as an artist.
2) Hans Franzen, (2009) Erik Laubscher: A Life in Art, Stellenbosch: SMAC. Page 50
3) Ibid. Page 53
4) Ibid. Page 76