The work of award-winning artist Moich Abrahams has been selected for numerous exhibitions in London, including ICA, Hayward Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Camden Arts Centre, Royal College of Art, Menier Gallery and The Discerning Eye at The Mall Galleries. He discusses the dialogues between contemporary practice and the digital age.
A: How do you begin to create a composition – what comes first in terms of planning in terms of images, colour or concept?
MA: Sometimes I hear something said that catches my fancy, even something I may have just said, and I’m prompted to grab a pen and spontaneously sketch and if I’m lucky an interesting drawing emerges. I might then make follow up drawings, again all quite spontaneously, until what I’ve done seems sufficient. You might say it’s like drawing what I hear rather than what I see. Other times I might be stimulated by something seen or I might have a theme or concept which again through impromptu sketching I create a series of drawings. Some time later I may look back over dozens, if not hundreds of these sketches, and if one of them seems to have something visually compelling about it, I may use it as a source structure for a new painting. At other times, there isn’t much planning, I just work directly on the canvas in a spontaneous and unpremeditated way. The first approach, which produces a structure to start with, tends to lead to the best results.
A: How do you respond to the medium of painting in the digital age? Why do you still think it has longevity as an art form?
MA: I sometimes play on my iPad with art programmes and really enjoy it, and I especially like to do this collaborating with my very young grandchildren, and we produce fabulous abstract images, however re the “importance” of the medium of painting, I can’t give you an intellectual answer really, as my response is gut feeling related. [ I can only repeat what I’ve said before, that is,] since contemporary digital techniques utilise what I call “plastic”, press button technology, and like plastic bags, have only been around for relatively few decades, what I call “plasmic,” orgasmic, gestural or diagrammatic expressions, have been etched into human DNA since man evolved. Hence the importance of painting.
A: You have a very busy schedule in-between your travels and preparing for exhibitions. How do you create your artwork in terms of scheduling your time? Do you do any painting whilst travelling, and if so, how does this influence its development?
MA: I rarely paint whilst travelling but often continuously make little sketches in the manner explained above Obviously. When I’m home and can spend time in the studio, which to be honest, I don’t do enough of, I tend to either be creating new work that I’m interested in, or working towards a specific exhibition. I prefer the former, without the pressure of a time deadline, though a balance of the two seems to be what I‘ve been doing more of recently.
A: How would you describe your creative process? Is it planned or spontaneous?
MA: Clearly spontaneity is the bedrock of my process, however with a little planning put into the equation, one tends to be more productive.
A: Could you discuss your involvement with the London Group?
MA: I’ve been fortunate to have shown many times with the London Group since 1975 and was elected as a member in 1977. In the early days I was involved with the hanging of shows, not my forte, and always did and do my stint ‘invigilating’ when necessary. There was a time when I stopped painted and rarely exhibited (1985-2003) but in 2003, for the 90th anniversary, which was celebrated with an exhibition in Cork Street, I got involved again. Fortunately. I was still eligible to show with them, having kept up all my dues over the years, and I tried my hand again and got hooked and have shown regularly since then.
During the 100th Anniversary of the group, in 2013, wanting to give something back, I put up a prize for “the most innovative work.” I was also elected to the new members selection committee for the Centenary Year, but really wasn’t enamoured with the selection process as the person I wanted to be elected, the prize winner for “the most innovative work” wasn’t successful in becoming elected as a new member! I was most disappointed. A contribution of which I am particularly proud is that I suggested to the L.G. Committee to have a connection with the Ben Uri Gallery, and succeeded in introducing them to the 2 key curators there at that time. This lead to the publication of a highly successful book by these 2 brilliant people called Uproar! The First 50 Years of The London Group 1913-63.
A: How has times changed since 1975 when you were first involved to contemporary society in which we now all live?
MA: The Modern Art market has become even more crazy and dominant in the life of “contemporary art society”. More I can’t say. I think painters should paint and leave writing answers to such questions to those who have writing as a skill and interest.
A: Of the many exhibitions you’ve participated in, which has been your favourite to be a part of? Which one has been the most enjoyable rather than the most successful in terms of developing your career?
MA: I certainly enjoyed the London Group Centenary Year exhibitions; there was a lot going on that year and I had a lot of fun. Especially the Open Exhibition where I showed The Origin of UFOs, which was my first multimedia piece to include a short video movie.
A: What do you have planned for 2017?
MA: So far, I am in a London Group collaborative touring exhibition: Personal Relations – International Miniature Portrait Exhibition. This was recently on show in December in London at the Cello Factory; now travelling to The Hague (The Netherlands, February 2017), Vicenza (Italy, April 2017) and elsewhere in Europe and beyond. viz: Touring : 25 February – 29 March, The Hague (The Nederlands) at Pulchri Studio; 29 April – June 2017, Vicenza (Italy), at Mirror Gallery; www.personal-relations.org
I also plan be exhibiting in the London Group 2017 Open Exhibition, plus a couple of times again with the Espacio Gallery. Hopefully also with Nolia’s Gallery (was in many shows this year), and again with the Magma Group. These latter all in London. Also I plan to do a lot more travelling eg in January and February going for the first time to Australia and visiting Sri Lanka on the way back. I’ve got several other trips planned for example to Lanzarote again and Malta. I visited Venice this Autumn and would love to go to Venice Biennale for the first time next year.
1. Moich Abrahams, Two Heads (2013). Edition of 6 Silkscreen on paper 60 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Moich Abrahams, The Empty Chair (2013). Acrylic and oil on canvas 170 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
3. Moich Abrahams, Please Do Not Touch: Z – electric Diptych: Mixed media and collage on canvas 25.5 x 71 cm. Courtesy of the artist.