Gary Michael Dault - Little Soldier, John Abrams at Loop Gallery, Globe and Mail Oct 2007
John Abrams Little Soldier - Car 2007 24 x 30 inches oil on panel
Toronto-based painter John Abrams is clearly devoted to movies, and for the last few years has been making paintings about them. Up until this current exhibition, these paintings have taken the form of individual frames from the films he loves - a recent show featured vignettes from Jean-Luc Godard's ground-breaking Breathless from 1959, for example, and from his 1963 film,Le Mépris ( Contempt). This current exhibition, Little Soldier, while still drawing from Contempt, is built largely on Godard's Le Petit Soldat (1960) and on Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers. But what's new here is not just Abrams's use of other films.
What's new - and important - is his highly effective employment of a surging painterly technique whereby speeding cars and airplanes are made to speed through the paintings by means of the artist's new sweeping brushwork, and emotional confrontations are given crackle and immediacy by the hectic spots and dribbles of pigment those confrontations seem to generate.
There is something strangely and satisfyingly appropriate about Abrams's use of abstract-expressionist paint-handling methods as a way of achieving congruence with a film's luminescent flickering. And there is yet another newness to these pictures: it lies in Abrams's bringing together scenes from various films and melding them into one composite painting - as in the superb From 'Contempt', where the juxtapositions and disruptions making up what Abrams calls a "palette of images" seem both painterly and filmic all at the same time.