A painter of abstractions that seem to be a mass of shapes and colors, with an intuitive sense of texture, Joseph Haroutunian regards himself as a landscape painter focusing on “calligraphic details, movement and color.” Most of his work is in oil, although he uses some watercolor, and he credits the painting of modernist John Marin as a key influence in his work.
At the age of seven, Haroutunian was introduced to art by his grandfather, a minister, who created stained-glass windows in his spare time. His mother, Helen Halsey Haroutunian, was an artist and art historian who encouraged creativity, but it was a chance encounter with images of the last paintings of Vincent Van Gogh that hooked him on painting. Although he studied with Tom Dietrich at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, and with a former Bauhaus member, Paul Wieghardt at the Evanston Art Center, Haroutunian considers himself mostly self-taught.
My painting involves an intuitive process that is free of specific subject matter. From 1985 to 2000 my focus shifted back and forth between allover fields and forms within fields. In 2000 I began the geometrical formatting of my fields. This was simply the result of liking the look of one painting when it came in close proximity to another painting. I started by adding one painting to another on the same canvas. This process evolved into varieties of combinations, both vertical and horizontal. I am currently at a point where large vertical sections are suggested by the spontaneously occurring layers in horizontal paintings.
I admit that the horizontal layers evoke aspects of landscape. I am fascinated by the landscape of Maine and the Western US: mountains, oceans, canyons, rock walls, geological layers, rock formations, desert, cloud formations, mud flats, blueberry barrens. I am also interested in jazz, many forms of world music, rhythm, color, mark making, Asmat and other tribal art, and abstract art in general. All these elements find their way into my work. Landscape painting per se is usually not very compelling for me. Van Gogh is an exception, but more for his mark making than his subject matter.