By Leafy Ways: Early works by Ivor Abrahams
7th February 2008 - 3rd May 2008
Sculpture Study Galleries
Garden Suite No 1, Feb 1970, Ivor Abrahams
Leeds Museums and Galleries (Art Gallery)
In By Leafy Ways, the artist Ivor Abrahams invites viewers into the strange world of the English suburban garden, in which ideas of nature and artifice are subtly opposed. Playing on this theme, he arranges and rearranges seemingly innocent images of bushy box hedges, ivy-clad walls, gravel paths, manicured lawns, flower borders, sundials and shrubberies into new configurations. He uses the common elements of the garden like a self-assembly kit to create scenes which are both achingly familiar and utterly bizarre.
By Leafy Ways takes its title from a film made by Abrahams in 1971, with sets made from toy garden kits and images drawn from popular gardening magazines. Taking this film as its point of departure, the exhibition deploys a body of work from the early 1970s, which has recently been acquired for the Leeds collection. It includes prints, collages, cut-outs, reliefs, small models of walls, hedges and other garden fragments and gloriously unnatural, life-size sculptures of trees and shrubs, cast in latex and foliated in flock. In these works, Abrahams uses the imagery of the garden to explore his interests in process, surface texture and illusion. At the same time, he is able to make images and objects which are accessible to everyone, at once kitsch and sinister, and filled with nostalgic longing.
Ivor Abrahams RA (b.1935) studied at St Martin’s School of Art and Camberwell School of Art in the mid-1950s. He was apprenticed at the Fiorini Art bronze foundry and went on to work for Adele Rootstein, a pioneer maker of display mannequins. He first gained international recognition with an exhibition of his ‘garden’ sculpture at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne in 1973. He went on to have solo shows in museums and private galleries in Europe and the United States, including a major retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1984. He was elected a Member of the Royal Academy in 1991. He currently lives and works in London.
This exhibition of Abrahams’ early work runs concurrently with our main gallery show Against Nature: The hybrid forms of modern sculpture. Both investigate uncanny elements of the natural world and bring together a strange menagerie of fantastical creatures with an enchanted garden.
- Accompanying Essay:
By Leafy Ways (No. 58)
Early Works by Ivor Abrahams