Shaun Haugen

Born in: 1986, USA
Lives in: Austin, TX, USA
Media: Painting, Sculpture, Digital Media, Watercolor, Collage, Drawing
Describe your work in 3 words: psyche, prehistoric, nature

I Am Dimension Flora, 2019 - Oil, spray paint, and neo megilp on canvas 76 x 53 x 1,5 in.

"My work is an experiment with the portrayal of exotic forms in nature. I depict not only exotic plant life, but sensual images and colors that relate to nature in its prehistoric state. My paintings are an imaginary environment where viewers can immerse themselves in an alternate condition that existed at the beginnings of humankind."

What themes does your work involve?
My research explores ancient variations on the natural environment. I source imagery of plant life that I find in various media, including botanical drawings, pictorial cyclopedias, medieval codices, and the Rajasthani masters. I investigate prehistoric conditions of human beings and the primitive life forms that existed within these periods. By looking back at the periods of the Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic, and the Precambrian, I am able to develop my own imaginative and made-up plant and life forms. I use this research to help spark ideas for the jungle-like habitats that inform my paintings and other artworks.
Describe your creative process.
My art practice is a very intuitive process. I organically rely on spontaneity to build up the surface of the paintings. I then attempt to make a fluid composition by relying on a variety of brushwork and mark-making while utilizing a variety of mediums to create the structure of the paintings. Flatness and texture work congruently. Color is important to me as well. I use color to illicit connotations of a psychic experience and as a reflection in the wild of poisonous warning symbols. I often work on two paintings at a time with similar content; moving back and forth lets me bounce ideas off of each painting. I know my paintings are finished after I have sat with them for months and I feel like it is not necessary to make another move.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
Artists who have influenced my practice include James Ensor, whose uninhibited use of texture has impacted the way I treat a flat surface with varying levels of raised paint. David Park’s juicy and luscious application of wet onto wet creates an incredible formulation of optical mixing that has been equally inspirational to me and how I perceive color. Lastly, Ann Hamilton has taught me the importance of play as a poetic element in art-making. Poetry and literature also inspire me to be creative and to further understand the human condition which is essential to my art. I make art because I have a constant flow of visions and creative ideas and the urge to apply them into reality. To form something out of nothing, this is the miracle of art.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
If you think about the great artists that changed the history of art, many of these artists were rejected, including the father of modern art, Cezanne, and his facture, Van Gogh’s dreamy, vibrant, colorful paintings, Picasso’s first cubist painting “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon,” Warhol’s elimination of the hand, and so on. These artists I believe were truly authentic to themselves; their art is a source coming directly from within themselves. These artist and art that is great also considers the history of art. A great work of art simultaneously both bridges and breaks historical conventions. And, a great work of art, a true masterpiece is also, somehow, something we have never seen before.
What is the role of the artist today?
I make art because I have a creative and visual mind. I often see visions flash within my mind. When I try to replicate the vision I often fail to portray it perfectly, but the vision serves as a starting point. I enjoy the challenge of trying to bring my ideas into reality. I also enjoy being in my studio, which serves as a place of meditation and purpose. Art should always be about the artist and their internal expression. True art lives on because the artist is genuine to themselves; when this happens the great artist can touch on something visionary. Their need for expression can result in avant-garde art becoming the vanguard for the future.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist