Painting of Cain and Abel by Michael Markwick (2020)

Cain and Abel

Michael Markwick: Cain and Abel (2020) 80 x 65 cm (31.5 x 25 19/32 in.) Acrylic on Silk and Wood
Cain and Abel (2020)
80 x 65 cm (31.5 x 25 19/32 in.)
Acrylic on Silk and Wood

Cain and Abel is a darker painting than what I recently exhibited in Berlin.  The work can be read as an abstracted narrative painting of fracturing figures in a kind of embrace, or a fight, in a natural setting. And yet, I have been thinking specifically about the story of Cain and Abel this year while watching racial and political trauma continue to unfold in the U.S.

This work continues my exploration of painting on silk. While I work on other substrates as well, there is an appealing ephemerality to the transparent surface that silk offers. Light passes through the silk but also bounces back out, illuminating the painting. The transparency also allows me to incorporate the frame, as I did in this work. I use a combination of free painting and printed wood forms on the surface of the work.

In this piece, the eye is first drawn to the energy and abstraction of the sunburst flower form falling apart on the left, while in the center of the painting, two abstracted figures are jostling in conflict. The story of disharmony in the hearts of the two brothers, and the resulting violence, appears in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic texts. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy, and this violent act is the part of the story most often depicted in painting. However, I imagined a different moment between the brothers, something more quiet and tender, a psychological and poetic space of both conflict and forgiveness. If you look carefully at the figures in my painting, there is a tender gesture of coming together. One figure’s hand caresses the other’s head. 

Detail: Cain and Abel (2020) 
80 x 65 cm (31.5 x 25 19/32 in.) 
Acrylic on Silk and Wood
Detail from Cain and Abel (2020)
80 x 65 cm (31.5 x 25 19/32 in.)
Acrylic on Silk and Wood