Friday, June 14, 2013

John Abell Explores Gallows Humor on Love and Life

British artist John Abell is making a splash with his large scale relief prints.These mega-inked up babies  bring with them a microcosm of art historical references which allows the viewer to move through late 19th c. early 20th c image-making. Abell's interest to make the image a life-sized scale is not  a purposeful decision as much as it is opportunity.  You see, he uses available materials. The scale of the piece is the scale of the matrix. Plain and simple. The guy doesn't believe in wasting useful printing surfaces. Gotta love him for that. (Face it, most printmakers are a resourceful lot, and we've all re-used matrixes before.)
Abell maximizes his whole picture plane, and one finds fractured scenes with main characters and subplots, as one would find in a novel. His descriptions of love and sacrifice, of losing on'e head(quite literally cut off) from one's body is a little ghoulish, but meant in good humor. We all lose our heads when we're in love, or in fascination. As figures pine away for their beloveds, or stare at us complacently with their limbs detached and lying about, one ponders the sense of emotional or real pain one suffers in the course of a day or a life. 

The physical carvings or wounds upon  Abells' matrix  compliment the subject well. His references to the works of German Expressionist printmakers is clear, but he fills up the pictures with lots of flowing rivers - of blood, perhaps, for the work is in black and white, and if presented in color, might seem overpowering or repulsive. The animated quality the work retains lets us look endlessly through the compositions and want to touch their printed paper surfaces

Complicated passages of people passing through time, lost love, childbirth and impending death weave seamlessly together. We are curious where these subjects come from, but there is a whole history of cartoonish gallows humor. These are less cartoon-like, but harken back to more medieval times, where a 'how to be a good christian' prophesy and faith were more intertwined in one's daily existence. They are refreshingly simple, yet complex, and encourage us to break with printmaker's traditional scale to produce images we feel we can walk into.Bravo!

Abell pictured below printing an image in his apartment.

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