Painting the Archetypal Feminine and Masculine / by Sam Abelow

Eros, The Archetypal Feminine, Oil paint on canvas, 60x48 inches

Logos, The Archetypal Masculine, Oil paint on canvas, 60x48 inches

By Robin Woerner

Samuel Abelow, with the paintings, Eros and Logos, realizes a contemplative intensity with an ambitious diptych. His world is rendered with a deep spirituality, while simultaneously grounded in the great backdrop of art history. 

Eros - The Archetypal Feminine

In Eros, bright shadows affect a consciousness emanating from within and without every element of the composition. Our figure is the keeper of herself, her companions, and the tender hillside beneath her feet — a ground that is as bright and undulating as any source illuminating from above. 

Her left arm and hand complete her form in a circle of energy, from her root to her heart. She is both complete and vital with fecundity as she tends the life surrounding her.  

She is safe in this place; her body is at ease and comfortable, needing no protective barriers. No aggressor inhabits her realm. The landscape and the figure are a unified entity. The forms in the undulating landscape are reflected in her shoulders, calves, hips and belly. The flower stalks and blossoms resemble her legs and round breasts. The trees are rising, neuron-like, curling and dispersing into the pure gradient sky. In the distance, rocky outcroppings form a mythic creature, eyes closed in continual satisfaction, drinking from the serene sea.

Eros, as landscape, body and world is benevolently alive, surrounded by a luminous space. The sky is a dynamic emptiness of transitioning light. Green plants, uplifted flowers and twisting trees are extensions of the figure’s psyche. She tends herself effortlessly, the water of her vessel flowing from an infinite source.

 Her gaze is the downward, inward-looking gaze of a meditator; the peace and all aspects of her gesture are native and calm. Her past is her present and her present is self-contained within harmonious being. 

Logos - The Archetypal Masculine

With Logos, we find ourselves in an upright village, with a young man and his horse. Compared with Eros, we immediately experience more contrast, with darker darks and peaks of white. There are shadows, negative spaces in his world. We experience the division of space: outside and inside the gate; wall and window; sky and the assertion of a built tower. Here we experience clouds in the sky – there is weather.

Our young man is not afraid of this world of polarities — safe and unsafe, inside and outside. His stride and gaze advance forward. He is prepared, even eager, to navigate and is poised to venture forth. His clothing is neatly tied, and he has earned the trust of his horse through his power and judgment.

We see this young man, ready to assert himself to the world. His treatment of his animal is just, his form is ready, and action lies ahead. There is work to be done in this place. He sets out and he is courageous.

A COLLECTIVE HISTORY

With his bright palate and spiritual message, Abelow draws inspiration from the late nineteenth century Symbolist movement. He sees his work as his own reflection and continuation of these traditions and intends to speak to the psychology of his viewers through allegory.  

Logos consciously references works of male western painters, evoking Picasso’s Boy Leading Horse (1906), Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses (1889) and the layered houses of Paul Cézanne. Logos is set in the western world, with cypress trees and a tower which may be a church. Here, Abelow speaks to a legacy of male artist seekers, very much of this world, whose material works are left as relics of their effort and creation. Abelow references these artists in his Masculine archetype. As he paints his own view and journey as a man, Abelow places himself in their timeline.

Eros, in a natural fantastical setting, hints at themes from Eastern spiritual painting. Eros’ vast sky shows a background gradient iconic to Thangka painting, while its figure seems to dwell in a static-flowing harmony, expressing peace and contemplation. The flat, undisturbed sea is a typical metaphor for the relaxed Buddha mind, as is the cloudless sky. 

A PERSONAL JOURNEY

Eros & Logos is motivated by Abelow’s desire to share his direct sensation of energy as archetypally Masculine and Feminine.

Vivid dream experiences first inspired the artist’s vision of the archetypal Feminine, a subject which saturated many of his early paintings. Abelow’s dreams of flowing energy were invasive and intense for a period, demanding expression as the artist explored the embodiment of consciousness in form.

Driven to access complements to this archetype, Abelow looked outward to the built world, studying work of past painters and the paths they walked in life. From compulsive painting of his inner experience, Abelow strengthened his practice to express discovery of an archetypal Masculine.

Abelow candidly shares his experience and intention behind Eros & Logos, reaching for connection. In more than his paintings alone, Abelow reflects the ethos of The Nabis, who were keenly focused on art-making as a foundation for spiritual community.  Abelow’s images are sacred to him, as is the safety, inclusiveness, and vitality of artistic community – itself an archetype of union and creativity.

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