John Biebel: That Early Push
I'm a painter, musician, web interaction designer, and general do-er of many things.
I studied at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.
I was fortunate to study with a wide array of people including painter Don Kunz, sculptor
Day Gleeson, writer and historian James Wylie. Being in Manhattan at the age of 18
was unfathomably exciting, and yet scary as hell, especially when you don't have tons
of money. I worked for sculptors as a studio assistant for people like Maura Sheehan
and Alan McCollum, so I was immersed in the art making going on in the late 1980's.
This was the New York still ruled by Mayor Koch, and it was a grittier and
more dangerous city than it is today, but unmatched
for a young artist trying to experience
A Voice Evolves:
Of course some good things must end, and 2 years later I had to leave England, and I came back to the US with only one bag of possessions. I
decided to move to Boston because I had friends there and it's an easy city to live in. Quickly I found myself working for a student loan company,
and I worked furiously at my painting, music and quickly refurbished my skills in web interactive design. It was a productive but also somewhat
listless time of life; feeling dislocated in space and time. This had a profound influence on my work as a painter, and the works seen on this site
begin at this period (2003). Although certain themes stayed in my paintings, they took on a quality that I can best describe as 'chaotically
balanced.' I wanted to depict subjects and actions that contradicted their natures (quiet subjects like animals and children, but put into strange
circumstances, dislocated places, time warps.) What emerged were portraits of dogs, child kings and emperors, vast abstract landscapes,
religious figures, historical portraits. I stretched my painting language to involve painting on the floor, exposing paintings to adverse weather
conditions to distort the canvas's surface, drawing on paintings with ball point pens. As always, I want to remove the pristine and untouchable
nature of painting so that it reflected the actual process from which they were made.
I've often felt a slight pressure that I should 'decide' if I'm a figurative or non-objective (abstract) painter. I will never decide, or it might be better to
say that I can't ever decide. The two worlds can be so different and yet they run into each other so often that I truly believe there is no dividing
line. Of course some painting is most interested in exploring just how far paint can be taken in it's expressive power on its own terms - and I
cherish this notion, but I can equally cherish a painter like Ingres, whose realism was so untouchable that some of his works look like photographs.
As my friend and artist Anastasia Odnoralov Kacedan said, 'Ingres would have loved cameras.'
New England, and England:
I painted for a while in New York after school, then returned to Connecticut ('the country') to breathe fresh air
and see if that had a beneficent influence on my work. The 90's were strange days - I was fortunate to have
some shows early on, and in 1994, I exhibited 18 large paintings at The I. M. Pei Arts Center at Choate
Rosemary Hall, This was a great opportunity for me, and one of the largest and most beautifully-designed
spaces I could imagine. At that point in time I was working for the Connecticut Post Newspaper doing
paste-up work, and then eventually became the resident illustrator. I was ridiculously underpaid, but I
enjoyed making art everyday as part of a daily newspaper. I recall being told that some of my illustrations
were too 'dark' and moody, but many of the stories that I was illustrating were complex and didn't have one
particular mood. Many of the original art and files of those newspaper assignments have been scattered and
lost, but I can't deny the importance of making hundreds and hundreds of drawings over that span of years.
A strange series of events made the year 2001 very eventful - The newspaper was bought, and many of us
were laid off. I met a new boyfriend, and moved to London. All these events were interrelated so they
seemed driven by fate. Before I knew it, I was residing in a council flat in the little neighborhood of
Haggerston, London, and teaching English as a Second Language in a school on Oxford Street in the center
of the city. I lived with film makers, musicians, students; people from all over the world. London is a
kaleidescope of people, and it is also a very musical city, and so I began delving into music along with my
1992 - 2012:
• The New Haven Arts Council, New Haven, CT 1991 (solo exhibit)
• The Discovery Museum, Bridgeport, CT, Annual Group Exhibit, 1991, 92, 93, 94, 95
• M. Pei Arts Center, Choate-Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT, 1992 (solo exhibit)
• Café Savoir Faire, London, UK, 2001 (solo exhibit)
• Battersea Arts Center, London, UK, Annual Juried Group Exhibit, 2002
• Café Nation, Brighton, MA 2005, 2007, 2010 (solo exhibits)
• Tremont 647, Boston, MA 2008, (solo exhibition)
• Agni Zotis Group Exhibition, New York City, 2009
• DadaTek, Berlin, Germany (group exhibit) 2011
• Watertown Public Library, Watertown, MA, 2011
• Boston Public Library, Honan-Allston Branch, 2012 (solo exhibit)