Press Release – The Lure

Opening reception: Thursday, June 5, 6-9pm,
with musical guest Tonye Aganaba

Exhibition dates: June 5 – 28

Michael Abraham has been a successful full-time artist for over two decades with a history of dramatic invention, and a popular motif of his is that of material desire. His new exhibition, titled ‘The Lure’, delivers a complex and multi-faceted examination of the human condition of wanting in a series of beautifully painted canvases that echo the epic works of Renaissance art, images that are so loaded with the metaphysical.

As a title, ‘The Lure’ epitomizes what Abraham is wrestling with through his narrative paintings. Read as a noun, it is not difficult to see what the lure is in several of the storylines depicted. To describe the paintings themselves as alluring, which they are, implicitly challenges the promise of easy satisfaction, especially given the darker aspect of some of the narrative content. This seems to be essential to the overall practice that Abraham has been engaged in over his artistic career: can there ever been a satisfying resolution to the human condition of desire and longing?

This latent anxiety, the undercurrent of tension, is the current that keeps Abraham’s energies floating along and his creativity bubbling to the surface. There is often an edge, the potential for darker realities to emerge, that hides within the innocence of the paintings. For instance in ‘The Hook’, perhaps the most optimistic of the paintings in the exhibition with its bright colours, solid composition and subject matter that leans to the lighter side of life, there is still a hook, the central and most important element, hanging there threatening both the subsistence efforts of the bird and the idyllic reverie of the man.

The moral and philosophical complexities present in many of Abraham’s paintings create a type of post-modern parable. The moral of the story is often purposefully ambiguous or open to interpretation. ‘The Conceptualists’ is just such a painting where the protagonist is indiscernible from the antagonist. Based on the title, it would traditionally follow that the character identified as the Conceptualist would be the protagonist. But in the era of full-blown irony, this could be a thinly veiled critique of Conceptualism. To blur the lines further, the visual parable could be read in such as way as to make the builder of the straight tower of blocks the Conceptualist, fitting his creation to the agenda of a school of thought. Or the Conceptualist could be the architect of the improbable tower of cubes, working not in the realm of practicality, but in the abstract world of ideas.

The ambiguities and dichotomies depicted in this series of paintings are the life-blood of Abraham’s creative process. His work has been described as psychological or magical realism, and it is an apt description, but it doesn’t encompass the moral struggle that Abraham happily engages in. For all the unknowns that Abraham celebrates, it is interesting that the only written words in the exhibition, squeezed between the fingertips of the character in ‘Hope and Salvation’ are “IN GOD WE TRUST” (wink, wink).

– Shane O’Brian, Gallery Jones, June 2014.

Installation during ‘The Lure’ exhibition.