Geraint Evans – Surface Worlds: Reflections in the City was on at Mercer Chance Gallery, London from 20th September to 30th September 2018. Bob Gelsthorpe reflects on the show.
What does it mean to be slow? To have a slowness? To hold something, for a while and then to move on – Slowness is a key trait in Geraint Ross Evans’ first solo exhibition in London – Surface Worlds: Reflections in the City, but let’s discuss that later.
Having worked in Wales for five years, Evans moved to London to take up a full scholarship at The Royal Drawing School on its Postgraduate diploma, dedicated programme devoted to the practice of drawing from observation in all its modes and processes. Describing itself as ‘the place to draw’, the Royal Drawing School has been running since 2000 with Prince Charles as patron, hence the Royal bit of the Drawing School. The school also boasts some of the most interesting names within drawing operating in London today, making it a perfect place for artists such as Evans to completely hone their craft.
Those who saw his first solo exhibition ‘Landscape of First World Problems’, Oriel Q, Narberth & Arcade, Cardiff in 2014 will remember the political vitriol splashing around on the surface of works such as,‘Map of the Estate’ (2013) which brought the back ends of a Cardiff estate into a baroque-style cartography, complete with Mary and Child motif re-imagined as a Woman loving holding her Bullmastiff. This same dissatisfaction with the political systems at play has been lurking throughout his practice, chimerically bursting out in different shapes: installation, taxidermy and sound, but Drawing, or to go further, attentiveness, is Evans’ real medium of choice.
For Surface Worlds, twelve drawings have been framed and hung in the Hoxton Gallery, Mercer Chance, ran by artists and fellow Royal Drawing School Alumni Rachel Mercer & Michael Chance. A sound piece runs on an intermittent hourly rotation emitting collages of daily conversations between street and body; the noise from cars, building work, attempts to maintain speed with late capitalism and snippets of conversations from people flying past. These field recordings have been gathered by the artist, drawing ‘en plain air’ on Oxford St, near where he holds a studio as a Drawing School tutor. These sounds have been gathered on microphones and played live via headphones to intensify the feeling of place, the genius loci (spirit of place) that Evans cites as a keen interest.
Holding these places on Oxford St for a dedicated period of time is not only difficult but anathema to their purpose. You see the big advert for YSL, you want the perfume, you go into the shop – its a transaction. However observational drawings such as ‘Window Shopping’ (2017) and ‘Shopgirl and Me’ (2018), are full of self-portraits via reflection, the street behind and unfortunate rough sleepers beneath the shop front – a polar contrast in situ. We are only afforded the insight into an observation outside the transaction through an artist holding true to the slowness in the fastest of environments.
In ‘Flourish’ (2018), we see a mode of display that presents a charcoal drawing on paper in the style of an altarpiece with all due devotion: a central mannequin is adorned with the high fashion of Oxford St, and amongst frenetic background of shop bags bustling and garment browsing, the foreground is the crux of this piece; two cleaners, dutifully maintaining the mannequin in an almost demigod status. We’re presented with the idea of something that will ultimately rot as the central figure and it’s through this that we see Evans’ continued dissatisfaction with a system that is least concerned with those at the bottom, as long as those at the top are fine.
Evans’ holds onto these moments in Surface Worlds so that they can be remembered, holding a light bright enough to burn images onto the back of your retinas, arguably showing something that we are all aware of, but sadly, too seldom, see.
Header image is of ‘Window Shopping’
(Photo credits: Jen Abell)
About Mercer Chance
Mercer Chance is an artist-led gallery in Hoxton, founded in 2014 by artists Rachel Mercer and Michael Chance. The gallery has gained a reputation for exhibiting the highest quality contemporary representational art by young, emerging artists. It believes quality artwork has a solid foundation in observational drawing and combines technical skill, practiced use of medium with conceptual insight and imagination.
About Geraint Evans
Geraint Ross Evans was born in 1988 in Caerphilly, Wales and grew up in Cardiff. He gained a BA (hons) in Fine Art at Swansea Metropolitan University (2009) and later a scholarship to study at The Royal Drawing School, London on their postgraduate program The Drawing Year (2015). On completion he was awarded the Directors Prize. His most recent body work explored edgelands and celebrated the sensations and memories conjured by these landscapes. The work was exhibited in a major solo exhibition entitled ‘Edgeland’ at Penarth Pier Pavilion back in South Wales in 2016. Shortly after, Geraint was awarded the Richard Ford Award, which allowed him 2 months to study the paintings at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Geraint continues to live, work and teach between London and Cardiff.
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Bob Gelsthorpe is a contributor to Wales Arts Review.