John Dobereiner was originally hired as an assistant professor in 1964 in the Department of Art Education at the University of Victoria. He became acting chair of the Department of Studio Visual Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts, which he helped establish along with Donald Harvey in 1966 and of which he remained a core member for the
next two decades.
Dobereiner studied drawing and painting at the Vancouver School of Art and the University of British Columbia before completing a Master of Arts degree at the University of Washington in 1966. He is best known for this sculptural paintings and shaped canvases. In the 1960s, he began distorting the canvas so that its three dimensional form contradicted the painted surface. His paintings are rhythmic or hard-edged geometric shapes and planes of colour, which sometimes trick the viewer’s depth perception into alternating between projection and recession of the same plane. The illusion creates a sense of false tangibility because of the tension between
the geometric painting and form of the support. He often used aircraft fabric to form parabolic curves rather than flat canvas planes.
In a 1978 artist statement for a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Dobereiner discussed how “when an artist places constraints on himself and invents within a limited format, attending to what he knows that he starts to find things out and strikes the richest lodes.” Curator Greg Snider responded that constraints are central to Dobereiner’s work because his work operates “discretely, sensibly, and casually, which downplays the complexity.”
Doberiener’s work can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, University of Victoria, Memorial University of St John’s, Newfoundland, and the Canada Council Art Bank. A scholarship in his name was established at the University of Victoria after his untimely death in 1985.