oil on wood panel, 36 x 36"
oil on linen, 24 x 36"
oil on linen, 38 x 38"
Deep Blue, 2017
gouache on paper, 22 x 30"
gouache on paper, 22 x 30"
Trianglum Australe, 2014
oil on linen, 30 x 50"
Life Cycle, 2014
oil on linen, 40 x 40"
Any place, even a forgotten, quiet and still place, is alive and constantly changing, moving and breathing as if there is a heartbeat present. My first deep connection to place was the red dirt of my childhood Georgia, where I imagined that the stained earth showed a trace of those that came before me. I now encounter a quiet drama or melancholy in the sky and landscape that reminds me of that red clay, a dream or living mystery.
I have always been immersed in the natural world and while my work has involved traditional landscape themes, my paintings are now exploring a new realm where science, nature, thought and painting collide. I am not trying to render deep space in my work, but use the concept as a beginning.
I think of visionaries like Galileo and Leeuwenhoek, but I also think about concepts of memory, paint, history, color, and about landscape. I appreciate painters like Pollock for the chaos and simple intuition of marks, Corot and Church for their connection to place, Van Eyck for his obsession with surface and object, and Soutine for his pure love of paint.
Normal depth in a landscape simply defines a location, while depth in my new work refers to a measure of time. My lacework of scribed surface marks represents an earthbound time span, while floating particles are illuminations of a distant time warp.
Images of early human markings in stone, microscopic protozoa, and distant galaxies are all recast in a new drama. This drama involves what I sense is another dimension that expands beyond the past and present, as time bends in all directions. I am exploring an alternative universe with new possibilities that explore a world beyond.
I close my eyes tightly and also look skyward on a clear night and the similar vision I see leads me on this exploration.
Kim Abraham and the New Volubility of Stars
Any discussion of Kim Abraham's work should begin with the unfolding of a secret. Those images of deep space we all looked at when we were kids in school, they were not real pictures, and that includes images of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Think about it. From what point of view were those pictures taken? And by whom? It was not until 1995 that the Hubble Space Telescope provided us with our first glimpse of deep field space, and, when it did, that view was an incalculably small bit of it. Still, who in childhood didn't stare and wonder at the glittering of fields of those imagined stars? They were—and still are—a source of great interest.
Kim Abraham was interested by those stars. He still is. Looking at his canvases, one can see the existential interest in their scope and scale, the astronomical interest in their matter and dynamics, the artist's interest in their composition and color. It's obvious Abraham has spent a lot of time both observing and contemplating the enormity of the night sky. But he doesn't try simply to paint what he has seen. Deep space, he tells us, is a conceptual starting point for his work. What Abraham ultimately depicts in his artwork is the act of exploration: mapping cosmological architecture, deciphering the stars, reading and rereading the stories we've made of them.
And because Abraham's work is purely symbolic, it invites interpretation. There is the artist to consider. Abraham's large, beautifully colored canvases are creative expressions of Abraham's intellectual and emotional depth and of his ability to discover the relationships he can find in both chaos and order. They tell us he is comfortable with the unfathomable and requires only a point of view to occupy it.
As for the images themselves, they connote a host of possibilities, most obviously those having to do with matter itself, how it is universally comprised, universally beautiful, universally proportional. Abraham's work modulates these universalities by his desire to seek and find something new.
What's especially interesting about Abraham's images is how they allow us not only to imagine new landscapes, but also to look back upon remembered vistas. In their longing for the future, his works grow ironically elegiac, not so much because they speak to issues of changing space and time, but because they depict a part of human life that is increasingly lost to us: rural, domestic life. No longer do we live in single family homes set apart one from another in the vastness of rural space. Most of us can no longer step out of doors, either alone or in the company of others, to observe the stars. They are gone. In our modern world, we are both isolated in our cities and confounded by artificial light. In these ways, we are disconnected from all previous peoples who looked upon the stars, contemplated them, and were thus enjoined in a speculative community that included sparkling light.
Especially in Abraham's larger images is this additional reproof for the way we live now: with ourselves firmly, if not wisely, ensconced at the center of our own lives, we have forgotten the universe and imagine ourselves alone and unspeakably large. It's evident in the way we enact dominion here on earth—without remembrance, without forethought, and without eyes and ears for the volubility of stars.
Abraham gives us versions of these stars, newly conceived and newly articulate. To enjoy them, one need only to stop and take a fresh look.
John A Haslem, Jr.
Let our readers know who you are, where you are from and what kind of art you create?
My name is Kim Abraham and I live in Maryland. After living in the east, west, north and south, I have always been fascinated with the concept of place, and have most often chased the notion of landscape. My painting has evolved to express a nod towards what is hidden and ephemeral both underneath our feet and above our heads-those tiny micro and macro infinite places. Since the earlier days in my native South, I have studied and painted trees, water, clouds, rocks, sticks, bugs, stars, and everything else encountered as we walk through our day to try to get at something that stirs me.
I sense an extra dimension in shapes that wiggle around each other and by each other defying or defining depth and scale as I paint through my vision of reality. These visions lately have lost any sense of gravity and I am playing with the notion of stars and space with insects and microbes to explore my own universe in the studio.
What is your favorite piece of art that you have done?
Favorite piece -That is a trick question as there is no such thing for me. Perhaps a piece that I keep looking into and listening to is “Fish Tale” done recently. Oil on Linen.
Fish Tale, 2015. oil on linen
Show & Tell us about your workspace and the tools you use. (brushes, charcoal, steel, lasers?)
My place to think-my studio is not large, but is cozy and chaotic. I work with different mediums, but mostly oils-I love the smell. I also use only linen-beautiful stuff. I often use most anything that can make a mark and prefer invented tools. Although I do like to use large flat handle soft bristle brushes, I have forsaken all the rules about large brushwork, and use many small brushes that allow my painting to feel like I am also drawing. No hard bristle-only sable and soft hair brushes.
I have a series of handmade scribes I use to draw into the paint. I have many knives that I may paint with, and my favorite tool next to my painting wall is an ancient Swedish collapsible knife that I use for everything. I have three large pallet surfaces with tools, oils, brushes and tubes of paint stacked everywhere with no real order, and I reach for what I need.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I have just stretched and begun another larger scale oil on linen. I have abandoned most of what I learned about process in art school and the methods I now work with involve layers and staging. The photo of my painting wall shows this new work process in an early stage-this painting will look nothing like this eventually. You see the base color layer first with second color and field of characters just beginning. I work with other layers later that also include a kind of stellar field with many layers of color, determined as the painting progresses. I often concentrate on competing color temperature contrasts. I become lost in the complexity of the image as I would in some mysterious otherworld place, and the challenge is in loosing and re-gaining some kind of control in the painting.
What is your favorite piece of art from another artist?
Favorite work from another artist...too many come to mind, but two I have always loved are the fifteenth century “The Virgin and Child With Chancellor Rolin” by Van Eyck, and a particular early nineteenth century Corot, “The Bridge at Narni”. Both are in the Louvre.
Kim Abraham lives in Maryland and was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He grew up in Georgia, so has his feet firmly planted in the South. His paintings and drawings have always been involved with a sense of place and identity, and he has shown work in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Seattle, Dallas, Miami and other places. Kim’s work is in collections of the University of Pennsylvania, Whitman College, Ciurlionis Museum in Lithuania, and other collections including commissioned paintings in public spaces.
After Graduate studies at University of Texas and University of Pennsylvania, during which time he also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Kim worked in New York, Washington State and now Maryland. He taught painting at Whitman College in Washington State during the 90s.
Kim’s work has evolved through intense study of the natural world beginning with years spent outdoors painting the landscape. Now a studio painter, his paintings which involved the forest floor, trees, water surfaces, rocks and horizons have always been sensitive to an essence and magic that emanates from these parts of the natural world.
After a fellowship spent in Ireland with the Ballinglen Foundation, Kim began to focus on paintings inspired from the night sky and deep space. Always grounded by reality, these paintings also may include micro-organisms and invented energized forms that create a lacework of playful and complex imagery. His paintings have now lost a sense of gravity and are engaging a broader set of images and space that invokes many notions of place and abstraction as he continues his search.
born 1952 Memphis TNeducation
public collections1983 University of Pennsylvania, PA, MFA1981 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME1976-77 University of Texas, Austin1975 Abilene Christian University, TX , BFA
Ciurlionis Museum, Kaunas, LithuaniaObion County Public Library, Union City TNPhiladelphia National Bank, PAUniversity of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaWhitman College, Walla Walla WA
August 4 2011
Although most of the art is representational there are no views of the Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights metroplex. The majority of the exhibition's landscapes are by Kim Abraham, who is inspired by the seashores of Ireland. His coastal vistas have an ephemeral quality, in part because he often works in oil paints that are diluted until they take on the delicacy of watercolors. Others are painted more thickly, occasionally with stories carved into the paint in a runic script he devised (and whose content he declines to reveal). Abraham's stacking of sea, shore and sky can verge on Rothko-like abstraction, especially when the format is extremely horizontal. But the inspiration for the painter's liquid-looking seascapes is always clear. "I love water," he says, "because it has so many identities."