by Imran H. Khan
Even though John Evans is considered as a landscape artist, I consider him an artist who creates the illusion of incredibly vast spaces on a two dimensional canvas and uses cues from landscape and texture of the sky to frame it. When I first became his neighbor and was invited to view his works, I was struck by the vivid colors that he used to stylize his landscape art. Over the years he has toned down his palette and become more of an abstract artist.
Whenever I visit a new country, I am attracted to visiting museums in order to understand its culture. Within the museum I tend to gravitate towards the art of that culture that provides me with an insight into the soul and sensitivities of its people. I find it interesting that it is not the knowledge about the rich and powerful of the land that grabs the attention of tourists, but that of the works of art.
In that sense John’s art captures the American spirit. His art reflects the American playfulness, vigor, optimism, naivete, grandness and drama.
Capturing the grandness of landscape is a spiritual experience, according to John. Thomas Lyon Mills had this to say about John’s art from this perspective –
The paintings of John Evans reveal a transcendent love affair with the New England coast. While studying at Boston University, John first came into regular contact with the rocky islands, secretive wetlands and beaches that frame the Atlantic. Now the places of solitude that John seeks are becoming increasingly rare; as population densities along the coast explode, uninterrupted vistas are replaced by expansive highways and anonymous architecture. However, the raw beauty of the coast survives in key locations, and John knows where to find every one of these spots. These days he frequents two favorite locations to make his oil-stick drawings: Plum Island in northern coastal Massachusetts, and Truro, one of Edward Hopper’s favorite Cape Cod haunts. In these drawings, used as preparatory studies and as complete works in their own right, John records the blossoming grasses of Plum Island in spring, and in fall, the blazing rich hues which this same ground displays. In summer, John draws and paints the dunes of Truro, an otherworldly place of hypnotic, undulating sand.
A classic example of creating a sense of immense space can be found in the painting of cottages in the fields in France. His abstract rendition of landscape with choice of playful colors please both the eye and mind at the same time. There is a sense of minimalism in the elements like cottages and trees that populate the landscape.
Another one is a New England beach scene. The placement and tightness of the horizon when coupled with the texture of the sky and reflections off the sand create a uniquely John touch of creating the luminous illusion of space.
An Act of Faith
Artists of the Romantic movement in the 19th century wrestled earnestly to express their experience of what they called “Sehnsucht”, a profound sense of inner longing in the presence of the transcendent, numinous other (be it nature, or a beloved, or God). The best art revealed this subject/object relationship where we come to recognize both ourselves and something outside of ourselves. The idea of Sehnsucht continues to have power today, because what lies at its heart, the terrible awareness of our simultaneous isolation and connectedness, is so deeply woven into the fabric of the human condition.
Sehnsucht is at the core of John Evans’s paintings. If you ask him what drives him to paint the landscapes and seascapes that he loves, he will tell you it is a mental state he calls ‘ ecstasy .’ His radar is calibrated to register those moments when nature presents itself ecstatically, without his having even to seek them. This is because he understands intuitively that the Numinous, that Other which lies behind and beneath and beyond mere visual appearance, is ever poised to reveal itself in what seem to be the most mundane shapes glimpsed in time: the slope of a country road into the distance: the angle of a dinghy lying forlorn on a dusky beach; a solitary, dark tree hovering wildly on a seaside cliff, or a pair of anonymous, mastless boats whose prows chance to align momentarily as they drift languidly in opposite directions. The humble dignity and simplicity of the subject matter is sublimated in flickering planes of luminous color both in the earlier works in this exhibition, in which a great density of marks reveals the vastness of space and light from within, and also in the newer, larger works, without visible horizon, a boat or two recalling figural isolation and intimacy.
The world seen in John Evans ‘ paintings is composed of beautiful interlocking shapes, in turn awkward and then elegant, that alternately either dissolve into one another or assert their identities to cleave earth from sky, horizon from punctuating vertical forms (trees, piers, signposts) though land and air, vertical and horizontal, are always united by the vitality of the marks and the feeling of accumulated light arrested. The landscape in Evans’ paintings is occasionally agitated, sometimes at rest, but almost always silent, a silence from which the radiance of the spirit grows. He assembles different moments of day and place, each with its own particular qualities of light, into a new whole so as to arrive at not so much a summary of the landscape as a revelation of the experience of being in it and outside of it at the same time. Perspective becomes a centripetal force, pulling the viewer in; yet at the same time the dense surface textures, scraped and scratched, mottled and scumbled, crusty, hard-fought, well-traveled by eye and hand, sanded down and then rebuilt again, halt entry into space and concentrate visual energy on the flatness of the picture plane.
Therein lies the key to what separates Evans ‘ vision from the transcendentalism of the Romantics: it is mediated by the lens of Modernism. Cezanne, cubism, and expressionism have not gone unnoticed. Evans studied with James Weeks and Philip Guston at Boston University, where realism and expressionism respectively were the coin of the realm, so their union in his work seems to have a certain prophetic inevitability. The work on exhibit synthesizes the landmarks on a journey from realism and painterly geometric abstraction through an expressionism akin to Kokoschka’s landscapes and finally to his heart’s true home: immersion in the sublime in plein-air forays to Cape Cod, the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York, and anywhere else the Numinous might reveal itself in nature.
– by Clifford Davis Associate Professor of Art Rivier College, Nashua, New Hampshire
Some of his selected works can be experienced in high resolution in the slide show below.
John Evans has been painting and showing his work since the 70’s and had studied at Boston University for his BFA and MFA studying under Philip Guston and James Weeks. James Weeks, who was part of the movement of Bay Area Figurative School painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and other show influence in the lyrical and painterly qualities of John’s work. John takes you through his process of painting four of his master pieces in the two videos below.
In his travels along the New England coast John had the opportunity to photograph a number of boats. He used these to create a new genre of boat paintings that are shown in the album below.
John recently did pond paintings in which he has evolved a new style that seems like a cross between Monet and Van Gogh.
A lot more information about John’s art can be found at website at http://www.evansartstudio.com/JohnEvans/ArtStudio.html
Video were produced by LAGO KASS PRODUCTIONS.Views: 20093Share