Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Non More Black: a studio visit with Dick Evans

Posted in Reviews by caryncoleman on December 8, 2009

Without any artwork or a laptop to show images, the studio visit with London artist Dick Evans was all talk of the past, the possibilities, and production. Now, a meeting with an artist without any actual art could seem lacking or perhaps even terrifying, but this space created by the absence of realized work can allow budding ideas to flourish. It also lets the artist and the curator the chance to get to know each other.  And it’s this dialogue of what comes before the making that opens the realm of understanding in such an inclusive way that when Evans’ thoughts eventually do become things, they will be all the more personally intriguing.

Of course, there were still things to see. The studio itself, housed in the back corner of a warehouse behind the VW car dealership on Old Kent Road that’s shared with an artist-run space, is an ideal house of contrasts: the sharp lines of welding materials, electric saws, and metal mesh with the softer qualities of a Victorian-style chaise and stool, portraiture painting books, and even a model of a British ship. But this makes sense. Evans’ previous work exists in polarity, taking urban and cultural references and turning them into a slightly dark gothic narrative, one in which the works have feeling. Take for instance his recent work at URA Gallery in Istanbul, The Swan and the Spectre, where he reconstructed Cinderella’s castle as depicted in Diane Arbus’ A Castle in Disneyland, CA (1962). The black volcanic three-dimensional castle intertwines Disney’s fairy-tale with Arbus’ representation of the marginalized to reflect a darker narrative about the ruin and the failure of such a utopian ideal.

After a yearlong break from working, it’s taken Evans six months to get to the point where he can discuss three new concepts for pieces he’s conceiving. These include a large-scale ghost ship and two-dimensional series influenced by ballet that are visible only as sketched in a notebook or as a skeletal beginning framed on the wall. Still, that’s enough to grab attention. Not surprisingly the color black comes up a lot, questioning its cliché-ness or it being over-played, but it simply feels to integrate best with his work. It’s not metal like Banks Violette, it’s more of a haunting tale that casts darkness onto a familiar image. It’s also a useful strategy that cohesively binds the elements of the work.

Evans seems to be an artist who’s learned from success in his twenties. Slightly jaded he’s had experiences that are enabling him to make the necessary changes to let his practice develop and that allow the work to become something more than a saleable one-trick-pony. His usage of Romantic notions, aestheticism, and form are perhaps are more acceptable now than ever before but he’s still pushing, testing the boundaries of what he wants to do. Hearing of an artist taking some time to do this is refreshing and having a studio visit reveal the initial stages of the next chapter, it should be worth the wait.

Image: Dick Evans, Swan and the Spectre, 2009.

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