Gary Evans

Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey

paintings and works on paper
July 10 - August 15, 2020

Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Study After Rubens #3
Steps
Untitled #8
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Untitled
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
West on Victoria St. #1
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
A Ditch Near Baxter #2
Bush Study
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Field Work #6
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Barracks
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Untitled
Particle Dude
Untitled
Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey
Cottage
Maquette
Backyard
Backyard
Backyard
Backyard
Backyard

Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey

Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey, 2020
installation view

Paul Petro Contemporary art is pleased to present a collection-based survey of work by Gary Evans. Spanning twenty-five years, the exhibition includes paintings and works on paper. Gary Evans: A Collection-Based Survey opens online at 7pm July 10 and then by appointment through August 15, and is a precursor to an exhibition of new work opening Friday September 11, 2020.

Gary Evans was born in Weston Super Mare, England and resides in Alliston, Ontario. His painting challenges traditional notions of perception and experience of the Canadian landscape. Of his more than 20 solo exhibitions highlights include a touring survey exhibition of his work, Seeing Things: The Paintings of Gary Evans, curated by Stuart Reid, which toured Canada between 2000-2002 as well as a survey of paintings, Station, curated by James Patten at The Art Gallery Of Windsor in 2008 and a 15-year survey, Farther Afield, curated by Renee van der Avoird at the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, ON, . Evans is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and is the Coordinator of the School of Design And Visual Art, Georgian College, Barrie, ON. Evans has been exhibiting at PPCA since 1995.


Gary Evans looks back on the last twenty-five years

The recent sad passing of the amazing Rae Johnson was a reminder of how my experience in art galleries began. Strangely it was a trip to see Rae’s then recently completed Haliburton landscapes at Paul Petro Contemporary Art, at his 100 Yonge St location in 1994, that led me to get my first exhibition at PPCA. After applying to a call at the Justina M Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, University of Toronto, I was informed that I was a runner up to Rae for the one landscape exhibit they were planning in 1995. This sent me, competitively, to Paul’s gallery to see what she was up to. Sometime that year I would meet Rae, whose insights, conversation and positivity then were a great example of the experience I would have over the years in the Toronto and Canadian art scene.

My first exhibitions at Paul Petro (Grove, 1995, and Orchard, 1996, both at 100 Yonge St) now seem representative of the themes and approaches I have worked with subsequently. Often I am captivated by things of and from the landscape. I have found that interpreting the patterns of growth and natural phenomena are a continual starting point, sometimes a sole focus but more often a starting point for material exploration: they drop a pin in the real world which can anchor an image, make me feel like I am somewhere. My paintings often start with glimpses of foliage or a “real space” and proceed to expand. Through improvisation, and for purely visual reasons I try to make things look interesting by creating collisions of shape and colour. This usually results in a process of building and constructing images that, collage-like, are made of many constituent parts. I often make busy-looking work (more on that later) as often the process is about creating a space in the painting that resonates with my personal experience. So, from being captivated by singular objects (both natural and manmade) or scenes (vistas, spaces), I am always attempting to recreate the experience of being out in the world and looking. I often use realism and abstraction, simultaneously to create something that I hope is unique to look at, remake the sense of our being in the world, express experience.

My attempts to create imagery that uses both representation and abstraction were never an overt methodology, but honestly developed as a visual language through experimentation. When I realized that different compositional approaches yielded different psychological reactions I found a corollary between the macroscopic and the microscopic. Narrowing the focus on a plant form to reveal the complexity of growth was to move through realms in a sense, from a closed composition where we are forced to psychologically make a one to one comparison, the iconic Canadian bush or lone tree, to an open composition that becomes a map-like world of complex interactions, whose borders could shift to reveal more of the same information. I use these approaches, of focus (closed) and complex map or pattern (open) together in imagery, as it is my way to interpret the experience of perception.

Deconstructing our experience of walking and looking at the world (I am so grateful I can do both) we realize how many things are happening, that the seamless experience evolution has constructed is a truly remarkable thing. Every change in focus, every move of the head, dart of the eyes, every hazard we step over is negated for smooth and efficient travel. Apply the notion of a freeze frame or still image to this experience and we realize that we continually construct reality as a concrete phenomenon. {Anyone who has experienced vertigo, or watched more than two minutes of a shaky cam first-person video, knows how disconcerting the sensation is]. This intrigues me because it almost always make me aware that simultaneously we experience interior monologue: often completely different from the motion of walking, etc. We are thinking about mundane experience, relationships, plotlines, chores, interactions, etc., almost always. There is a lot to be said for a “be here now” meditative experience of existing, but I’m guessing it’s not the normal state of the human being. So, to find a way to make artworks that speak about the complexity of our shared and different experiences is something I have tried to do, to find a cognitive version of the landscape that communicates both harmony and dissonance to express the sensation of being, and experiencing, in painting. It is hard to truly say why, but I hope that the work will share that sense of “becoming” that is an essential part of our life experience.

Of course, how I choose to do this is so hyper-specific to my set of circumstances, I can be honestly aware that it might not make any sense to some viewers. Personal history constructs a specific set of references that become a limiting factor. I grew up in the psychedelia of late 60s early 70’s culture. Came of age in the 80’s where mediated culture and critical viewpoints were absorbed into a constant stream of imaginative imagery. Born in England, {and raised till 10 yrs of age there], I absorbed a set of cultural references that are not hard to see in my work. The English harnessing, subjugating of the landscape , the constant battle against nature, of manicuring and fencing that never wins, and also the deep history of the natural world there, I feel is much more a part of my imagery than the Canadian landscape. Yet I live here and I tend to paint what is in front of me and try to remake that. I have grown up and lived in suburbs, places that to a fault provide remarkable creature comfort, yet are devoid of almost anything notable and become psychologically oppressive for their sameness. I try to work past that and the ironic and critical viewpoints one might arrive at. I like to think of the suburban world as a giant sculptural theme park. It has made it easier to find solace in its spaces. [To be able to live and work in Canada at this point in time is such a privilege in reality, that my larger project as an artist seems a ridiculous dream, which also might be the point of what I do, in a way.] I cannot speak to the experience of others, just share my experience, and hope that doing so, with a sense of hope and vitality, I might communicate a sense of optimism.

In a great deal of what I have done I look to the familiar to reveal something. Places I have repeated exposure to develop a personal resonance, that might become subject or starting point. Those places though paradoxically are often completely banal. However, I think for the viewer that banality and un-specialness can become a mirror of sorts. I use formal explorations to coax something out of them. I am interested in making things lyrical and beautiful. I work towards creating personal balance and hope for the best. I have often thought I illustrate rather than paint, as I never feel it is a full-on battle with material that brings out my imagery. The marks and abstraction that are part of my work are reflexive. They become a vocabulary of visual cues that will contextualize or characterize a vignette of the known world in unique ways. My interest in the organic interaction of shape, space, and form, interior and exterior, is a way to talk about the nature of cognition and consciousness that we all experience. The shifts between urban space, natural space, fragmented arrangements, dense or sparse, are a continual journey of playing out inspirations, trying to make something that makes sense in the time of its making.

Occasionally work is constructed with no reference, yet the patterns and shapes are, more often than not, known to us intuitively. Strangely, I have very little interest in total abstraction, yet to some it would appear that is my way of working. The purity of modern abstraction, that provides one critical lens is, I imagine, absent. Abstraction for me has always been extrapolated from the real. In using it that way I hope to talk about the phenomena of perception that we all experience. Hopefully the interior space of the work allows multiple contextual moments where images and shapes continue to reveal different sensations, as the viewer sees things in complex combinations.

The prospect of trying to sell the viewer on an experience by dressing it up also lurks as a possible reading. Is what I do any different than the graphics on the TV news? It might be that the “spectacle” is part of my nature. That said, I love painting, my work is unmistakably a form of practice that has personal benefits. It helps me make sense of the world. It’s a form of meditation in a way that constructs fictional space, that allows things to be poeticized. I often relate it to a sort of flower-arranging. It’s the personal act of constructing balance. That I have had this ongoing opportunity to work and exhibit with Paul is something I’m very happy and grateful for.

Gary Evans, July 2020



Gary Evans, Field Work

by Nell Tenhaaf, October 1997

My first impulse on seeing this work is to resist words. The paintings are so retinal, and so beautiful. They leave an imprint on the eye and mind that I want to keep deliberately pre-rational.

But because I'm immersed in a conference just up the road at Victoria College, Toronto, called “Semiosis, Evolution, Energy,” I decide to filter my perceptual experience through the overdose of theories on signification I'm hearing there. In particular, semiosis of energy seems pertinent to Evans' paintings: what kind of sign system is it possible to form from what I recognise as raw energy, what kind of codification could match that energy?

Semiotic theory says that a resemblance between the sign and its source is first transposed into an iconic representation, a direct image for that source, and that this is the basis of the development of all signification. Meaning is often, but not always, the eventual endpoint. So what is the source here? I think it's certainly not Nature in its mythological capital-N sense. Evans says that he works at roadsides and in fields, so human presence is implicit and it has already acted upon nature. The icon here is derived from mediated nature. That first direct image taken from the source admits that the human eye is in operation, and so I think f this icon as something of an “autonomous perceptual unit,” rather than idea, it's rather like the Impressionists' strategy for painting in the way that it focusses on the light and colour qualities of the source – except that the Impressionists were very attached to the idea of making pictures that mimicked the natural world.

The perceptual units in Evans' works are points of attention, each relates to all the others around it in the paintings, each focal point is a signifying context for the others around it. Unlike the Impressionist idea, there is no attempt to use these units to build a naturalistic scene. Instead, they're in a state of flux, they each “act” autonomously but always in relation, and there's no possible final word on how they inter-relate. So to return to my first impulse, that's how these paintings resist concept, how percept is kept alive and seems to resist language.

The painterly illusion here is not of a view onto Nature, but of an organising principle that is perceptually derived from the natural world but seems finally to be entirely implicit in the process of painting, rather than explicitly arranged or pre-determined.

In the classical semiotic terms of C.S. Peirce, the nineteenth-century American father of semiotics, there is a stage in the generation of an idea which he calls the “fictive simple”: it happens after perception but before naming, so it certainly precedes meaning. The perceptual unit of shape and colour in paint in Evans' work gives me a lucid and explicit set of fictive signs for energy relations in nature. These signs tell me much more about roadside nature than what I could derive from the scenes themselves, they embrace the breath of both the invisible dynamics and the ancient organic origins of what appears as a banal bit of the everyday world. The works permit my view to complete the ultimate semiotic circle, that is to shift between a sense of the actual or physically existent, and the arbitrary space of all possibility.

When Evans says that he thinks of the paintings as “reflections of this wall of matter onto some internal wall...,” he points to the power of visual representation in answering to semiotic perplexities about communication across the great divide that separates organisms. How can I ever know what your internal space looks like, how can you see and interpret what is also in front of my eyes? And conversely, how can you know my subjective experience? Evans' paintings give me, if not an answer to this kind of question, then a sense of reassurance that I can at least glimpse the inside of someone else's inner world. It may be that this can only be articulated in language, but it's my immediate recognition of it that gives these paintings their power.

Nell Tenhaaf, October 18, 1997

-- reprinted from the catalogue Seeing Things: The Paintings of Gary Evans, curated by Stuart Reid for the Art Gallery of Mississauga, Kenderdine Art Gallery (Saskatoon), Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Liane and Danny Taran Gallery at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts (Montreal), Tom Thomson Art Gallery (Owen Sound) and St Mary's University Art Gallery (Halifax), 2000-2002.