I have been drawing and painting as long as I can remember. My grandfather was a shop steward for years in the Pilkingtons' glassworks in St Helens - after he retired he went to art school every day for 30 years. He died over 22 years ago, aged 99, still a communist, determined not to get a telegram from the queen. He was and is my inspiration.
I was born in London in December 1958. Despite being born in England, I never felt this defined his identity. My father (Dannie Abse) brainwashed me to support Cardiff City FC, and told me that I was half Welsh, and half Jewish, and half English. I realised early on my father's mathematical shortcomings and was glad that my father had chosen a career as a poet rather than as a quantum physicist. My mother (Joan Abse) was from Lancashire (St Helens) and her parents were English and Scottish. After bringing up three kids, she became a renowned art historian. David's maternal grandfather (Jack Mercer) had a profound effect on David's life: He worked as a shop steward for years in the Pilkingtons' glassworks in St Helens, but after he retired he went to art school every day for 30 years. He died over 20 years ago, aged 99, still a communist, determined not to get a telegram from the queen.
Despite my father's determination that I should get a "proper job", I went to Art school in Wolverhampton and subsequently worked for many years in the voluntary sector in the UK - including several years as a union representative, and more years as CEO of Islington Voluntary Action Council (IVAC). After leaving IVAC in 2005 I set up a freelance consultancy business. Throughout these years I continued drawing and painting part time.
Six years ago I moved to the south of France, and returned to painting, drawing and printmaking full time. I still thinks of myself as half English, half Welsh, half Jewish and as a Londoner too. It is no surprise then that many of my paintings focus on issues of identity.
I write a regular blog which I post at http://davidabse-art.blogspot.fr , which I hope you take a look at, as well as at my website www.davidabse.com , where you can see a lot more of my artwork. Much of my work focuses on issues of identity. I guess this is because for so many years now I feel I put on so many different hats and play so many different roles it's confusing. I'm a father, a stepfather, a husband, an artist, a writer, a consultant, a printer. Even within these there are sub and sub-categories. Just concentrating on art you could say I'm an abstract artist, using a mix of acrylic and oils. But that wouldn't be the whole story. I like to paint landscapes. And flower paintings too. Sometimes i use inks and watercolours, and I love drawing - not abstract drawing, but sketching people in cafes and stuff. And then there are my ipad drawings (see www.purplecat.co.nf) and I like printmaking too (which is actually what I specialised in at college). But that only touches at the surface. I am British, I am Welsh, I live in France, and I'm a Londoner, and a Jew. And a Disabled person. People care about these labels and they form part of everyone's identity, but again we've only touched the surface. What about my politics? My religion? My loyalty to which football team? (Socialist Atheist Cardiff City fan if you must know). And what do I think about the news? (depressing) What artists do I like? (Matisse, Derain, Rothko, and more) What about music? Books? Films? And what about sex? Yes I like them all but not necessarily in that order. Life is confusing, and I'm just trying to find out who the hell I am at the age of 54.
“The art of David Abse is highly contrasting, with a variety of colours placed onto the canvas with an energetic, street-wise hand.Combining a multitude of influences, ranging from the cerebral artistic musings of the expressionists to the gritty urban graffiti styles of inner city artists, these works shine outwards with a confidence and an attitude that is utterly compelling.”
LondonArt, June 2011
1983: Tarmac Prize Prints, Printmaking Open, Wolverhampton, UK
1984: Bradford Print Biennale, UK
1985: Kanagawa Print Triennial, Japan
1985: International Print Open, Krakow, Poland
1985: Leigh Gallery, London, UK
2010 July/Aug: Pic Saint Loup, Matelles-Art, Hérault, France
2011 March: Icosahedron Gallery, New York, USA
2011 April 2011: Les Printemps en Folie, Le Soleil Bleu Gallery, Lodève, France
2011: May: Animals, Art Nomade, Gignac, France
2011: May 21: Pic Saint Loup “Festa Trail”, St Mathieu, France
2011: June: Boom, The Brick Lane Gallery, London, UK
2011: June/July: Animaux, Matelles-Art Gallery, France
2011: October: Parallax Art Fair, London, UK
2012: June: Fleurs, Matelles-Art, Hérault, France
2012: July: Art Brownie Rainbow 2012 IndexG, Toronto, Canada
2012: July/August: Outside the White Cube, Bermondsey, London, UK
2012: September: Electric Open, The Electric Picture House, Congleton, UK
2013: July: Vignes/Raisins/Vins, domaine St Michel Archange, Bize Minervois, France
Francis Kyle Gallery, London (1984-1990)