Please explain to us the poetic or philosophical message behind your work.
There is a lot that feeds into my work, but I don’t identify a single direct message. I hope to achieve a piece of work that will be both engaging and open enough to be interpreted in multiple ways by many people. I am very interested in occupying a meditative space that relates to time – looking to the past and our historical legacy, but from altered vantage points so that the original moment almost reappears, transformed. It’s quite difficult to put into words, which is the point of the paintings I suppose! My work is as much about the process of painting itself as it is the final product. It allows for the work to constantly evolve and for me to continue to discover.
When I look at your pieces I think erasure, the removal of something great to make room for something greater. Please tell us how this reduction to underpainting as a technique arose for you.
A large part of my process focuses on that push and pull between painting in areas and taking them away again, looking for harmony. I realized part of what was interesting about my work, especially when referencing the Old Masters, was what was absent, removed, ambiguous or intangible. The interplay between the recognisable and the unrecognisable has the potential to create interesting new perspectives, a kind of uncanny beauty. I hope that the space created between moments of understanding and not understanding triggers a pause for the viewer, during which you are creating and adding your own reading. That pause allows your conversation with a piece of work to necessarily be longer, it gives time for contemplation. I purposely leave the meaning open-ended. Of course, there are many other things that the absence alludes to – for example, the nature of memories or artifacts becoming fragile, fragmented or corroded – but I leave the interpretation of those to the viewer.
Your work speaks by removing from us the immediacy of aesthetic pleasure that comes from understanding or appreciating recognisable forms. How do you think this veil you place over our eyes allows us to unite deeper with your pieces?
I don’t necessarily think what you are describing, for me at least, is an aesthetic pleasure. Something easy to read or easily recognisable might be immediately satisfying, but something that provokes questions and a conversation has the potential to deliver a deeper and more profound response. I personally feel aesthetic pleasure when a piece of work strikes the right balance between communicating something to you from outside yourself, as well as providing a more reflective experience. It requires you to invest that bit more in the work. Perhaps you’re not sure at first what it is you are seeing, but the more you look the more you receive back. It’s a collaboration between the artist and the viewer. And I definitely try to leave clues, layers of meaning, the reference title – there are all these things to unpack – if you so choose. I hope the works aren’t exclusive however, there is no requirement for prior knowledge about the reference piece for example because the ‘meaning’ of the new work is up for debate.
You have a fondness for old masters, and often use the color schemes of neoclassical and renaissance paintings. What do you think is relevant about these now-classic works, and how or why do they hold importance for you?
Just because there are new ideas and new movements in art, I don’t want to completely abandon the past, I think that the two can coexist. Ultimately I don’t believe it’s possible to escape the past and what’s gone before us, and how it continues to shape and influence us. We are still painting with a brush and oil paints, it’s still mark making and painting hasn’t really changed that radically. Painting is almost as old as we are, so why not embrace it and enjoy the past, and continue to learn and develop from there? The Old Master works, in particular, are magnificent, and I never tire of looking at them and discovering new aspects to them.
In our age of digitisation and new forms of approaching art, do you think your style serves as a counterweight to this, or do you think your style could also fit into these news mediums as well as it does on canvases or panel?
I do like to keep an open mind about new forms of approaching art, and it’s definitely not to take away from those other art forms, but I’m not that interested yet by digital for my own practice. The artist can feel too far removed, for me, from what is produced. A painting is such a vivid expression of the artists’ emotion and response at a moment in time. To see the artist’s hand – that piece of paint which has been moved across, around or scraped off the canvas. A hair from the artists brush stuck in the paint. A physical trace which can only ever be a one-off – it cannot be reproduced exactly. For me, that’s the magic, and that’s what it’s all about.
Mystery or unveiling play a prominent role in your technique. What does this say about your approach to viewing human nature? Do you think we are more concealed or revealed as beings?
I think that of course there is more going on under the surface than we choose to reveal, and then a lot that we aren’t even aware of ourselves consciously. I certainly don’t judge anyone else solely by what is revealed instantly or openly. I think we all have the potential to be more subtle and interesting than we might first appear!
What is it about art today that inspires you, and then, what also causes you concern for its future?
I’m continually inspired by art, and there are incredible contemporary artists out there. Especially those managing to carry on making incredible work with less and less funding available. I continue to love art that gives an opportunity for the viewer to take part in the process. Anselm Kiefer’s paintings really move me and I love Cecily Brown, who’s work also directly references art history of course. I suppose I am concerned with the ongoing obsession with turning art into a brand. When art is at its best, it is such a great gift and offers, for the artist and viewer, a connection with humanity at large. When art exists solely as a commodity, I feel like we are sacrificing its potential.
After having responded to the above questions, what more do you think your viewers should know about who you are as an artist and what you wish to bring into the world?
Referencing the works of art that I do, shows my deep admiration for them. I suppose I’m attempting my own kind of art history archeology. Perhaps it’s important to add that I am always open to changing direction as the painting develops. I might start with a particular area or a question that I’m interested in exploring, which I’m hoping to discover more about through the process of making work. But it’s often the unexpected tangents that provide the most satisfying results. I just embrace the chaos!
All images with courtesy of Jake Wood Evans