Ivor Abrahams

Vahine II


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ivor Abrahams 1935–2015
Screenprint on paper
Image: 1074 × 804 mm
Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

Catalogue entry

Group of ninety-eight screenprints, lithographs and etchings, various sizes [P11099-P11196; incomplete]

Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

This group of prints was bequeathed to Evelyne Abrahams by the artist's parents, Harry and Rachel Abrahams, on the understanding that she would present it to the Tate Gallery on their behalf. It represents the greater part of the artist's printmaking to date. Other works by Abrahams in the collection are a sculpture entitled ‘Lady in a Niche’, 1973 (T03369), a work on paper entitled ‘Winter Sundial’, 1975 (T02330), and a small number of prints: ‘The Garden Suite’, 1970 (P04001-P04005), ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, 1975 (P07384) and ‘Untitled’ [from the artist's book Oxford Gardens: A Sketchbook], 1977 (P08150).

Abrahams is primarily a sculptor, and many of his prints relate to particular sculptures. In the period 1967–79 Abrahams focused on garden imagery, exploring the relationship between art, artifice and nature. Many of the images used in early prints were based on small, relatively poor quality photographs of gardens reproduced in gardening magazines, such as the weekly Amateur Gardening and Popular Gardening, or, less frequently, better quality illustrations found in the series of volumes on gardens published by Country Life in the 1920s. This use of second-hand source material gives much of his printed output a conceptual quality, and links his work to Pop art. Abrahams has presented a large amount of source material relating to his printmaking of this period, including magazine clippings, photographs and sketches and acetate stencils, to the Tate Gallery Archive (TGA 8315).

The critical and commercial success of ‘The Garden Suite’ (P04001-P040054), published in 1970, helped establish Abrahams' name internationally, and in the following decade he went on to produce a significant body of prints, making approximately one print a month. The dealer Bernard Jacobson published many of his portfolios, and the Mayor Gallery organised a series of touring shows of prints and sculptures. In this period Abrahams was based in London, working at a studio in Leonard Street, EC2, from 1969 to 1982, and at the A & A Foundry in Bow from 1982 to 1992, with a second studio at Butler's Wharf from 1974 to 1979.

In 1979 Abrahams abandoned the garden theme for which he had become well known and focused instead on water-based imagery, using bathers and nymphs which were inspired in part by the landscape, myths and folk customs associated with the South of France. Abrahams and his French wife bought a home in Pézenas, in the Languedoc, in 1973, where he used the cellar as a studio. In 1988 they bought a house in the small village, Castelnau de Guers, in the same region, and have lived there on a full-time basis since 1992.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotations by the artist in the following entries are taken from a taped interview with the compiler held on 18 August 1994. The entries have been approved by the artist.

P11194 Vahine II 1984

Screenprint 1074 × 804 (42 1/4 × 31 5/8) on Vélin Arches paper, same size; printed by Bernard Culls at Coriander Studio and published by the artist and Coriander Studio; one of 5 artist's proofs aside from the edition of 50
Inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 84’ below image b.r. and ‘AP. V.’ below image b.l.

P11193 and P11194 depict two seated female nudes against a backdrop of blue sea, purple sky and green palm trees. The bodies of both figures are printed in copper metallic ink, and the surfaces are scored to suggest a metal-like texture. In ‘Vahine I’ the figure's face is dark and featureless. In ‘Vahine II’ the figure is turned away from the viewer and a long plait, tied with crossed ribbons, can just be seen down the middle of her back. Printed with an irregular black border, the images are deliberately reminiscent of travel posters.

In conversation with the compiler on 28 September 1994 Abrahams said that the screenprints were based on fashion plates which in turn had inspired some ceramic sculptures. The pose of the figure in P11194 appears related to that of the ceramic ‘Seated Figure’, 1983 (repr. Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wake-field 1984, p.26). The title ‘Vahine’ is Tahitian for ‘young girl’, and both prints appear partly inspired by Gauguin's treatment of the female figure in his Tahitian works of the 1890s.

Abrahams explained that in making these prints he was motivated in part by the desire to try out new methods with Coriander Studio, a printing firm he had not worked with before. In ‘Autobiography’ (Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Bernard Jacobson Gallery 1994, p.98), the artist wrote of his work with the printer of P11193 and P11194:

Meet Brad Fayne [sic Faine], of Coriander press, through Bernard Culls who printed the EA Poe Suite at Advanced Graphics. We do a pair of prints ‘Vahine I & II’. Marvellous print shop, real enthusiasm. Develop a working relationship that is still ongoing.

In conversation the artist described the prints as ‘light-hearted’, and commented that they were very popular.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996


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