West Country

Amy Bowles, Gary Evans

paintings and sculpture
November 18 - December 23, 2016

West Country
West Country
West Country
West Country
West Country
West Country
West Country
Bonnet of Blossoms
Fern and Fungus
The Fortress
Foget-Me-Not Eyes
The Growing
Capital Figure
Cider Cat
Four in One

West Country

Gary Evans
West Country , 2016
install view
Photography: Cheryl O'Brien

Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present new ceramic works by Amy Bowles and new paintings by Gary Evans.

The West Country levels were once thousands of years ago under water, but now is a landscape of rivers and wetlands. Amongst these wetlands there's a strange duality of restlessness and comfort that flows in the earth's energy, a calm and damp air that feeds and erodes. I've always felt that if I were to lay still in the grass I would have been devoured by the land. The sculptures that I have built out of clay for this show are embodiments of this feeling.
-- Amy Bowles

Gary Evans on West Country

The genesis of the idea for West Country comes out of our connection to a specific area of south western England where we were both raised. The main counties of Somerset and Dorset, Bristol and further south to Cornwall, along with the major cities of Bath and Bristol, is a dense network of towns, history and greenery: Wells and its cathedral, the seaside resort of Weston Super Mare (my place of birth), the impressive caves of Cheddar Gorge, the world-renowned town of Glastonbury, its Tor and Rock festival, as well more historically intriguing places like Sherburne and Charterhouse and the towns of Yeovil and Taunton.

The southwest of England is renowned for its natural beauty and that has not changed. Its historical and mythical significance is as equally lasting. Significant anthropological finds in the 12000 year old range are noted and indeed it has been consistently populated since then. Standing stones, Henge’s, Hill side chalk drawings, Roman roads, cathedrals all are part of today’s tourist agenda. The West Country {as it is known }has an identifiable accent {think Hagrid in Harry Potter], a joyful celebratory farming culture rooted in cider, cheese, strawberries, backcountry pubs etc..John Cleese{ raised in Weston], beautifully satirized the simple west country farmer in his hankerchief-on-head simpleton guise. The mythic undertow of the place is one that has created the mystique and aura of Glastonbury and its connection to Arthurian legend. Its successive histories of Druids, Celts, Romans, Saxons, etc is a wonderful and a powerful thing to consider as you walk upon the ground there. The pull of the West Country identity and sensibility is a strong one in contemporary life, so much so that the rural charm and mythos of the thatched cottage etc.. has a large draw on the British psyche. The woods are now full of Londoners in BMWs in their weekend cottages, living out the myth of the landed gentry.

What has made lasting impact on me, and has been a place of idea generation in my work, is the magical relation the area has with nature. It’s an extravagantly lush, verdant place, I cannot conceive of it without thinking of the proliferation of greenery, trees etc.. Strangely however its relationship to the built environment is unique. Wandering into the bush in Canada could be a life threatening decision. The wilderness is in some places endless. In southwestern England it’s as dense and mysterious, but its size and scale are dramatically reduced from the Canadian. You have expanses of nature but there is always another town, fence or marker of place. So the density and mystery is a more psychological one. Nature is measured alongside human habitation and is imbued with the human spirit in a way. British folklore and its concept of the green man, the regenerative male figure in nature, seem actual and tangible in considerations of the relationship of people and nature.

The idea that this verdant force is one that needs to be expressed has been the long-standing energy behind a lot of my work. I mess around with ideas of growth, juxtapose them with our environment in an effort to make [interior] concepts which link our thought process to the model of the organic as opposed to the analytic. Lately, in this recent body of work, anthropomorphic forms have become a focus. The idea of a circuit or form being an accumulation of brushstroke and colour have created at times humorous forms with scale references to the bust or portrait. A quality of symbol has appeared unexpectedly and I think of letterform and calligraphy in attempting to create an interplay of positive and negative space. The forms in the paintings I hope express themselves as “becoming” or “coming into” as opposed to “having been” or “pictured” while still being self-contained. The sensation of form merging or emerging from suggestions of growth is a strong and fundamental link between my work and Amy’s, while the inherent qualities of paint and clay create different connections.