Tour Guide of Future Signs – The work of John Phillip Abbott


words by Derrick Buisch

“Why are you watching? Someone must watch, it is said. Someone must be there.”- Franz Kafka

It is fair to assume that John Phillip Abbott’s paintings are made inside a room commonly referred to as a painting studio. The real question we may be left to wonder/ponder is simply – who chooses to do this and why? What motivates these works in particular? Are they random acts of inspiration? Is it just years of research, training and preparation, that result in these colored crafted chemical optical concoctions? What motivates Abbott to make these paintings of broken words and fragmented phrases in flashing colors with such powerful retinal intensity?

Are these paintings the result of some form of time travel? Do these works occupy the strange spaces in the gaps of some unknowable future timeline?

These new paintings by John Phillip Abbott are the visual equivalent of a brain freeze. Push play and turn it up loud; these paintings come in surround sound. Abbott’s paintings amplify the periphery. They spell out a condition of confusion in bold block letters – right/write below the surface of legibility. Speak to me in crystal clear color picture glyphs that are impossible to ignore and possibly even more difficult to understand. These works work to evoke, provoke, instigate those little brain tremors of synesthetic visual pleasure and poetic curiosity that great paintings can summon up on the best days of looking.

John Phillip Abbott’s words in his new paintings run out of space. They are broken, warped, and disjointed. These paintings celebrate their own inherent contradictions because they relish the mess we have come to expect from painting. They are loud when paintings are silent. They are fast when paintings are still. They unravel when paintings are finished. These paintings move, jump, pop, sing, shout…they move out into space and squirm about. Abbott’s paintings are ill behaved in the best way.

One thing these new works by Abbott represent – options, the ecstasy of possibilities, honest and joyous play, a powerful result of many hours of enthusiastic labor. As painters (from one painter to another) this is what we work for, this is where the hours of training, straining, all of the false starts, former loves, past disappointments, all the trials and errors – all the ingredients of a life lived so far under the umbrella of the vocation of painter, practitioner, studio rat – comes to this: A crystal clear body of works, all in harmony with each other, all buzzing in the same visual bandwidth frequency. POW. This is what we work for, this is what we strive for, this is what we live for – these moments of inspiration, of focused intensity, of visual levitation.

I have seen the future and it beckons bright with many colored signs. I remain an optimist. Thank you, John Phillip Abbott, for showing the way. I have a good feeling there will be many wonders there – I can’t wait.

Why are you painting? Someone must paint, it is said. Someone must be there.

An earlier version of this essay and some of these works appeared at PIER 1218 Madison, WI Summer 2012






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