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About The Artist

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Joan Abrahams has many paintings in private collections in countries around the world. Her paintings are also to be found in corporate collections.

She works in watercolour, gouache and ink as well as in acrylic and oil. She has had several shows, both locally and in the UK.

Joan was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is both an educationalist and an artist.

In her first series, entitled "The Shadow Of My Marrow On The Wall" Abrahams created 20 paintings incorporating images of Africa.

Twelve of the paintings included African mural designs, mainly from the Basotho but also from the Ndebele and other tribes. Traditionally, murals were painted on the walls of their homes by women as decoration and symbolic prayers and messages.

Abrahams created her own 'walls' on which she superimposed words, phrases and marks. These depicted basic primal drawings, inspired by a range of stimuli which impinged on the artist's psyche, experience and imagination. They covered a spectrum of images from as wide a field as Mbuti pygmy drawings and traditional African designs on one hand, to images from the artist's medical history, on the other.

Images from her roots as an African woman, in and of Africa, are juxtaposed with those of 'white man's medicine' and primal feelings of anxiety, fear and hope. These images and marks transcended their origins to form new images that were bound together by colour, shape and associations which were intensely personal for the artist.

Her next series, "Africa, My Africa", consists of 30 works in which she incorporates her experience of Africa, both colonial and tribal. Using a process of superimposition or "palimpsest", she incorporates symbols and images, both as abstract shape and concrete form, into layered veils that open up at times to reveal spaces beyond, that are manipulated by subtle perspectival devices.

The work is born of the creative processes of visual abstraction, "streams of consciousness," a grappling with intangibles, an almost dream-like flow of visual perceptions.

The use of pattern-making, of primary shapes and rhythms, of timeless archetypes, juxtaposed with more specific images from the artist's experiences, expresses her sense of Africa, the ancient and the modern, the past and the present, the universal and collective as well as the particular and personal, echoing her hope for the future of the continent.

Developing out of that, she produced a series of 20 paintings -oil on canvas, 108cm x 77cm - entitled 'In The Moment', which were exhibited in Johannesburg at the Art Foundation in August, 2001.

Here the sense of place has become more actual, where spaces and physical form have become more concrete. These architectural structures present more specifically as wall and window, arch and door and screen. We, as viewer, are invited to enter into these spatial markers, into a light-filled world of Euro/Afro-centric cultural presences.

There is here a wooden sash window, a sweeping balustrade, an arch, a column, a pediment and a classical nude, there a Mabutu pygmy pattern, Ndebele designs, a Masaai woman and Shona sculpture. We enter into an eclectic mix of images that have become so prevalent in our post-colonial lives here in Africa.

Painted on canvas and unframed, with the painting extending over the stretcher, the works express themselves as very real, tangible, physical objects. The oil paint has been explored through the full range from impasto to glaze and through a great range of the chromatic scale. Because of the perspectival devices used and the extensive use of pattern-making, the works have an appealing lyricism. But they are more than simply about decorativeness. These works deal profoundly with meditative space, where the artist expresses herself with the concepts of universal connectedness that all good art seems to encapsulate.

Thereafter, is her series - 'Shapes', exhibited at Merely Mortal in April/May, 2002, - oil on paper - 77cm x 57cm as well as oil on board. Using objects that have been handed down through generations, she explores the meaning of her heritage in compositions that again contain a free associative play with images that come from her focusing on various aspects of her life.

An important divergence in some of these works is that they move outside of the rectangular format into sculptural forms - shaped formats that sometimes contain actual pieces of wood from furniture that allude to these objects.

Juxtaposing illusionistic descriptions and abstract arrangements of colour, shape and line, she 'shapes' her personal story in a complex abstract composition that result from her personal creative journey.

At an exhibition, entitled 'Objects d. Passion', at The Art Space, Fairland, Johannesburg in October and November, 2002, Abrahams explored her awareness of place, time, objects and interaction using landscape as a point of departure. There are allusions to things exposed and hidden, buildings constructed and destructed over time, objects and knowledge searched for and discovered. Through a process of extraction and abstraction, understanding is transformed in a literal and figurative sense. Relationships and interaction with people and her world are enriched and clarified through the painting process. Paint is layered to create the subtle and obvious, thickened by wax or refined and glazed. Forms alternate between complex and simple. Colour both contrasts and compliments. The works suggest the connectivity of all things though time.

Artist CV

1996 - present - Trained at the Lynda Ballen Art Studio


Paintings in corporate and private collections in UK, Canada, Israel, Australia and South Africa, e.g. Alexander Forbes Head Office - Umhlanga; Rand Merchant Bank.


2000 - Exhibition entitled 'Africa, My Africa" at the NSA Gallery, Durban.

Some of these works (watercolour, ink and gouache on paper) were exhibited and sold in London, UK.

2001 - Exhibition of oil on canvas paintings (77x108 cm) entitled 'In the Moment' at the Johannesburg Art Foundation in August, 2001. Originally arranged for showing at Karen McKerron Gallery for May, 2001

2002 - Carol Lee Exhibition, entitled 'Inside Out' at Upstairs @ Bamboo, March, 2002. Oil on paper.

2002 - Exhibition of works including:- oil on canvas, oil on paper, 56X76cm; oil on board constructions and paintings in watercolour, ink and gouache, at Merely Mortal, Johannesburg, April/May 2002.

2002 - Invited by 'The Art Space' to exhibit paintings at the JOWSCO (Johannesburg World Summit Company) offices in Sandton, Johannesburg, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

2002 - Exhibition entitled 'Objects d. Passion', at The Art Space in Fairland, Johannesburg, from 13 October, 2002 until 6th November, 2002

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