California Dreaming with Conrad Haberland
March 31, 2016
LA Local, Conrad Haberland has had a colourful career; the whimsical nature of which can only be outmatched by his own work. The son of devout Catholic (that employed a witch doctor to cure a childhood ailment) and a zen Buddhist, Conrad was a previous member of punk bands that opened for such acts as the Pixies and Jim Carroll. He traveled in pursuit of art and, when looking for inspiration for his own work, began to emulate his father’s colourful palette. His own technique was born from a response to a hereditary tremor in his hands. In his surrealism style we explore fantastical forests and Californian landscapes inhabited by mythological creatures and pop culture references. We caught up with the artist to hear about his inspirations and future projects:
The Jotter: It seems you had quite an eclectic and spiritual upbringing – how has this manifested itself in your artwork?
Conrad: I was told many fantastic Indonesian folk tales by my parents. Stories about spirits in trees and demons that would sweep in at night and take you away to faraway lands. In school there were biblical stories being taught to me which were also very epic and very visual. My father’s stories of training to be a Buddhist monk made me look more into myself and my relationship to the universe. So all these stories have influenced my art visually with colorful demons and otherworldly creatures.
TJ: As a previous member of punk bands does music play a role in your work and if you so, how? Do you also have any anecdotes of your time on the road as a musician that you could share?
Conrad: Lenny Kaye was really nice and open. I was lucky enough to play in an early band incarnation with Stephin Merritt who is one of the most brilliant songwriters – his lyrics made me think of art more in terms of a poem and when I paint I feel the rhythm of my work as it it comes together.
TJ: In a number of your works it seems that there is something distinctly Californian about the some of the landscapes you choose to feature. What is it like being an artist in LA and what role does the city play in your artwork?
Conrad: Los Angeles has definitely shaped me as an artist. Being an artist in LA is very exciting, the city is a visual feast. There is always something going on to cultivate creative ideas. In recent years I have done more paintings with the Los Angeles landscape as a prominent part of the artwork. Billboards are featured in several of my new paintings.
TJ: You also depict other landscapes – a jungle of your creation, if you will – could you tell us more about this?
Conrad: Forests have always fascinated me because they are both fantastic and frightening. They are a mysterious other world where anything can happen. I guess these landscapes represent the mystery of life that I don’t quite understand.
TJ: It’s inspiring to hear that your unique brushstrokes are the result of a hereditary tremor. Could you tell us more about the process of learning to work with this?
Conrad: I have a technique which steadies my hand a bit. Painting to me is sort of an alchemy.
Magical process of transformation. So to me my tremors are all part of the magical process.
TJ: What projects are you currently working on and what do you have planned for the future?
Conrad: I’m currently working on a series of paintings that incorporate billboards similar to The Brown Bunny. In addition, I’m creating a Tree portrait series which so far includes Patti Smith and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .