«Doing more with less is always a primary condition that informs the work.»

Johnny Abrahams

New York, USA.

 

Please, tell us about yourself. How did you come to the art world?

My background and education are in classical music, so I didn’t really address my desire to make visual art until I was late into my twenties. Cubism and being completely enamored with the work of Georges Braque. I think the mathematical and systematic nature of that particular art movement created an approach to visual art that I could relate to. I was in school for music but I immediately started making crude oil paintings of cubist representations of everything around me. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think figurative abstraction was a very safe entry point into visual art for me. Not only did the act of abstracting the figure compensate for the lack of technical skill since it didn’t have to be rendered very accurately, but it also tethers the beginner to a soft reality, which can be a little less intimidating than jumping right into a less defined practice of pure abstraction.



Tell us about your paintings. How can you explain your love of geometry?

I try to treat subtlety as a virtue and employ a reductive strategy to distill formal elements into the most simple relationships I can find and has been slowly progressing from the line into form over the years. My initial exhibitions explored what can be done with the line to the exclusion of all other elements, but the intention towards form gradually led to irregularly shaped canvases, which led to more modular groupings of canvases, which ultimately led to the idea of painting about sculpture and sculptures about painting. Each iteration of the progression generated its own distinct series, but all were an expression of the desire to sublimate the intricate geometries generated through the line into a progressively finer language of formal elements.

How does your new work begin? How many time can one picture take?

A new painting always starts with a sketch and then is scaled up using various archaic and outdated technologies like a pencil tied to an 8ft. string to render a curve. The paintings only take a few days to complete but then require about 6 weeks to dry as I typically use fairly large quantities of oil paint and apply with a knife to create an accidental visual language within the forms. I find this creates a slight element of improvisation in what are otherwise very intentionally rendered compositions and can help bring them to life when viewed in person. To begin a sketch I like to find a compelling moment within one of my earlier line-based paintings and magnify that portion into a large-scale composition. When the tiny lines from an earlier work are scaled up and augmented into a 3-meter tall composition they end up reading as sculptural forms. Most of the forms are taken directly from my earlier line-based works, but some are improvised, often times by mining the commercial landscape for examples of iconic household or industrial design objects and then abstracting and repurposing them to fit the compositions. Earlier this year I became fascinated with the Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottle after learning it had taken three years and three hundred prototypes to design. I try to keep an eye out now for similar functionalist objects that because they are neither decorative nor widely considered as works of art go unnoticed regardless of their aesthetic quality. In addition to the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle I’m very much infatuated with the Head and Shoulders bottle and the red Solo cup right now, both objects that due to their ubiquitousness are taken for granted or overlooked in spite of (and sometimes because of) their elegance and simplicity. The shapes in the painting certainly aren’t meant to represent those objects, but they are influenced by their balance and refinement.





Is there something that inspires you most in your work?

Doing more with less is always a primary condition that informs the work.

What does your usual working day look like in the studio?

I’m in the studio seven days a week. I generally get there around noon and work until 8… then repeat. Somewhere in there is always a cup of tea, a curse and thanks to the city of New York, and a nap.




What about your plans for this year? Have you already planned any exhibitions?

I’m currently working on a solo booth for Art Brussels with The Hole at the end of April. After that is another booth with Romer Young Gallery at Expo Chicago, then a two-person show in London with Vigo Gallery alongside one of my favorite sculptors, Nika Neelova.

 

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