Ivor Abrahams British, 1935-2015


‘Our greatest interpreter of the suburban dream’

Andrew Lambirth

Despite being marginally colour-blind Ivor Abrahams R.A (b. Wigan, 1935 – d. Ramsgate, 2015) was determined to be a painter, but he was also excited by the possibilities of sculpture. ‘His ingenious solution,’ writes Andrew Lambirth in The Life and Works of Ivor Abrahams, ‘was to combine sculpture and colour in various novel and inventive ways, and even to paint and colour his sculptures’.


In the late 1960s exhibiting with emerging British Pop artists, Abrahams quickly found his own path, the bright and colourful Pop imagery became more ironic, sinister and less obvious. This uneasy effect is also compounded by Abrahams’ use of his renowned technique of painted sculpture, which sits in the middle of the two mediums, between 2D and 3D, not quite one or the other. The use of flock paper and photo-collage are also a reaction to his colour-blindness, which only encouraged him to exploit the 3D materials and texture to the full.


The majority of Abrahams sculptures are cast in bronze, its endurance allied to colour, wit and movement. They are sculptures whose spontaneous origin is in drawing, cutting and collage, as much as traditional modelling: ‘Cut-outs in my work are the fulcrum on which everything pivots,’ Abrahams said. Appointed Head of Sculpture at the R.A School, sculpture was how he expressed his ideas best.


Works from his Garden Series have menace, melancholy and wit. Some remind us of foreboding corners in the grounds of once stately homes, others of the suburbs, where evidence of stubborn individuality always delighted him. As Andrew Lambirth has written, he is ‘our greatest interpreter of the suburban dream’. In England the garden, like so much else, is laden with class association and aspiration.


Many of the figures from his post-garden period were cavorting bathers. In some the sea was included, in others, such as Figure from a Seascape, implied. Water had merely been substituted for land. In the 1980s he worked from the live poses of two dancers. Some of these figurative pieces are sensually modelled, most are cropped – ‘comparative incompleteness keeps them free from any kind of illustrative or directly descriptive connotation’. The Owls were a return to bird-loving, idiosyncratic, England. ‘Playing around’ with bits and pieces in his studio, a process extended to encompass computer skills and photoshop.


Ivor’s art reflected the eclecticism of his conversation, it’s surprising diversions and keen eye for absurdity. As James Mayor says, Ivor was ‘a European Rauschenberg, always looking for new ideas or to try a new technique. He was truly innovative’.