This exhibition took place when the gallery was previously known as Choi & Lager.
'It can sometimes be quite effortless to capture beauty using intention and control, but to make beauty with a little bit of destruction is more of a challenge and I think more rewarding when it happens.'
– Johnny Abrahams
Johnny Abrahams' oeuvre is marked by its rhythm. From the lively Vivace of his early moiré paintings to the calmer, more meditative tempo of his bold zoom-ins, each element on canvas plays a precise role in setting the tone and pace of the work. His patterns and their delicate interplays are meticulously curated. He understands the inherent power and beauty of control.
His practice of creation through control, however, does not come off as lacking humanity. Whilst Abrahams' work evokes geometric abstraction, his patterns stray from Kandinsky's insistence on strict two-dimensionality or the purist rigidity of De Stijl. Johnny's compositions may seem near-perfect at first glance, but the subtle ebb and flow of the paint's surface caused by the palette knife creates an uneven and rhythmic display of light reflected on the surface. The emphasis on the negative space of the raw canvas also hints at the artist's eagerness to celebrate the unintentional. The dominant traces of control and its 'accidental' byproducts come together in harmony as Abrahams strives to strike a balance between the intended and the unknown.
Johnny Abrahams' previous large-scale works on canvas embody introspection through the ritual of revisiting and magnifying his older pieces, and the series of works displayed in this exhibition suggests further progression in his visual lexicon. As a means of introducing greater humanity in his work, Abrahams uses a crude hand saw to cut the plywood panels on which he stretches his burlap canvas. The uneven edges of the wooden panels pierce through the burlap's irregular and coarse texture—all leading to a rougher, grittier finish than his older pieces. Johnny Abrahams willfully embraces the 'accidents' brought on by his own hands and tools, and finds perfection in imperfection.
These hand-sawn 'cut canvases' were first displayed in Abrahams' recent exhibition Archaic torso of Apollo. The title refers to a poem by Rilke in which the poet ponders on the enduring beauty of a headless Apollo statue. To Rilke, it is the destruction of the head that breathes life into this figure of a god. Such open praise of destruction resonates with Abrahams. Just as Rauschenberg once famously erased a drawing by De Kooning, Johnny Abrahams embraces destruction as a means of creation for the sublime.
Ultimately, the crux of Johnny Abrahams' work lies in his concern for form, texture, and colour. Perhaps it is his pursuit of the truth and the elemental, that has led him to this point. His embrace of the irrational is not at all antithetical to the compositional beauty that he has chased throughout his career. Destruction is an inevitable part of nature. It has always been part of his work, and it will continue to be part of his rhythm.
Press release courtesy JARILAGER Gallery.