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Picassoesque

On the shoulders of giants… let’s hope  🙂
We all need teachers and people that challenge and inspire us.

I have always been intrigued by the artwork of Picasso.  He shows what painting can be every time he picks up a brush.  He has been one of my most influencial teachers and the link to my understanding simplicity, graphic strength, and solid structure.

Here are ‘Abraham’ works that have been kick-started by the genius of Picasso.

'Passing on the Owl', oil on canvas, 24x 30 inches, 1993

This painting was created as a homage to my favourite art professor Tom Lapierre for pushing me to know the masters.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
– Carl Jung

Picasso et Sa Chouette - photo by Michel Sima
Observer II, oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches, 1999
Pablo Picasso - Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, Oil on canvas, 96 in × 92 in., collection of MOMA, New York

The ‘Observer’ was painted in 1999.  It was pre-Y2K and I was thinking about how we were moving out of a century of atrocities (the world wars; nuclear bombs; ongoing human strife and turmoil) and into the new millennium.  I grew up at the tail end of being a boomer and was influenced by pop culture from the late sixties to the mid-eighties.  Songs referencing the dawning of “the Age of Aquarius” and hopeful ditties where “The Age of Aquarius is causing great turmoil in order to make room for the new values of love, brotherhood, unity, and integrity”, hopefully blathering to get through the shit of the times. However, systems and wackiness seem prevalent. I was 35, in 1999 when this was painted, and much more naive then than now as I’m reflecting on this (June 2020).

The walls or rooms in this painting refer to different ages, as walking through a museum makes one do. There is a nineteenth-century Camille Corot styled umber coloured still life on the left wall with a torturous and jabbing twentieth-century Picassoesque painting I made up, which is on display behind the self-portrait as the ever pondering artist. Through the doorway to the next gallery, a pregnant woman and a Darren Waterston type abstract promises new birth and some kind of ethereal mystical hope for a new age to come in the 21st century. Little did we know that the twenty-first century presents 9/11 and so many more atrocities to come… I still have hope that human connections through new mediums can move humanity forward, but some days can be a bummer. Here is a lyric from a 1967 song by the YoungBloods:

“Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now.”

Pink vase
Michael Abraham - Vase with Dead Flowers, oil on panel, 10 x 8 inches. 2019.
Pablo Picasso - Nature morte au pichet et aux pommes (Still Life with Pitcher and Apples), 1913, oil on Canvas, 26 x 17 inches, Musée National Picasso

At one point Picasso was called a modern primitive.

I’ve chosen to produce an adulterated image of Picasso’s ‘Bust of a Woman’, from the Pompidou Centre, Paris.  Thinking of Picasso as the undisputed Midas of the modern art world, I enjoyed thinking of one of his more famous busts coming to life in the postmodern era and fumbling with a smartphone, opposable thumbs with a disposable phone.  Is it that novelty, diversion, and distraction the new God?

When this painting was completed the i-phone 4 was already an outdated/primitive device.

While lead white is not the standard white in this day and age, I used lead-based white paint to replicate some of the thicker brushwork seen in the original.

'Modern Primitive, Modern Primitive, Bust of a Woman with an I-phone 4', 2014, Oil on Linen, 20 x 16 inches
Buste de Femme by Pablo Picasso
Totem In The Temple of The Gods - 2014, Oil on Linen, 20 x 16 inches
The Sleeping Modernist, oil on linen, 18 x 22 inches, 1997

‘Totem in the Chamber of the Gods’ –After watching a bit of 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, I started to wonder what the new chamber of the gods is? Are museums the new chambers of the gods and are the new gods actually status, material wealth, iconic branding, and fame? I was thinking that by attachment and ownership of famous things, we ourselves might think we acquire a god-like status.  Is it by knowing the gods that we come to know our mere mortality?

'Pinocchio Assault' by Michael Abraham, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, 2019. (a)
'Massacre in Korea' by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 43.3 in × 82.7 inches, 1951.

The design of ‘Pinocchio Assault’ was influenced by Goya’s ‘The Third of May 1808’, and Picasso’s ‘Massacre in Korea’, where the painting is marked by a bifurcated composition, divided into two distinct parts.

It is said that the new battles are fought with information, disinformation, surveillance, diversion, novelty, inundation, denial, multiple messaging, and distilling confusion.

As a student attending the Ontario College of art, I used to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario every week or two to observe and study the art.  A small Picasso painting called ‘La Soupe’ always drew me in.  I loved the simplicity of the design and the purity of the message.  I wanted to take that simplicity and add messaging related to today’s sway and diversion. I like to think about what adults choose to paint. Do image-makers or anyone with a platform have a responsibility? The Picasso is an image portraying charity, so I think values such as faith, hope, charity, and calling out ‘bullshit’ are fine subjects to paint.
I also thought the background in this piece makes a nice stage backdrop, where the narrative changes a hundred years later but the background remains the same. It is here used as a setting for a morality play.

Extinguishing Features, 2019, oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches (a)
Pablo Picasso, 1902-03, La soupe, The soup, oil on canvas, 38.5 x 46.0 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
'Boy Leading a Horse' by Pablo Picasso, Oil on canvas, 87 x 52 inches, 1905-06.
'Unicorn Box' by Michael Abraham, oil on linen, 44 x 36 inches, 2017. (a)
Edgar Degas (1834–1917), Woman Ironing (c 1869), oil on canvas, 92.5 × 73.5 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany. Wikimedia Commons.
Pablo Picasso, Woman Ironing (La repasseuse), oil on canvas, 1904.
Michael Abraham - After the Crash, oil on linen, 48 x 32 inches, 2009.