16 May - 5 August 2023
FREVO New York, USA
In collaboration with UNIT London
Hosted at Michelin-starred restaurant Frevo NYC, the exhibition explores references from eighteenth and nineteenth-century English artists, examining how their works communicate notions of transience, nostalgia and intangibility through a contemporary lens.
“I’m sick of Portraits and wish very much to take my Viol da Gamba and walk off to some sweet Village, where I can paint landscapes and enjoy the fag End of life in quietness and ease.”
– Thomas Gainsborough
Inspired by the words of painter Thomas Gainsborough, Jake Wood-Evans’ newest solo exhibition presents a conscious shift from figure towards landscape. Altered Lands explores references from eighteenth and nineteenth-century English artists, examining how these artworks communicate notions of transience, nostalgia and intangibility through a contemporary lens. With a focus on John Constable, Benjamin Williams Leader and the overlooked landscape works of Gainsborough, Wood-Evans continues to unravel the thread that weaves through his entire practice, using the familiar as a tool to uncover something new.
Altered Lands also demonstrates a change in the artist’s process, presenting a more physical and vigorous use of material than in previous bodies of work. The surfaces of these paintings are scattered with markings; scratchings, scrapings and crosshatches in the paint itself disrupt a direct experience of looking. Each work is therefore clouded by a mist, giving the impression that we are separated from each subject by layers of time. The agitated surfaces of each canvas are balanced by softer edges, evoking the process of memory as a hazy recollection enters our mind only to leave again.
In this sense, the exhibition looks at the connection between different artistic practices through time. Wood-Evans specifically considers Constable’s comments on Gainsborough’s work: “On looking at them, we find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them.” With this in mind, the artist contemplates the more intangible ideas that lie behind landscape as a subject matter. Considering the emotional, almost sublime, qualities of landscape, Wood-Evans plays with themes that might be thought of as too sentimental in our contemporary art world. Ultimately, Altered Lands upends our expectations of a familiar genre, using it as a vehicle to explore more expansive meaning.
As his own artistic practice progresses, Wood-Evans has noticed a gradual disappearance of the human figure. In previous bodies of work, the artist excavated his reference imagery, stripping back layer after layer until only ghostly apparitions remained. Altered Lands seems to present a natural progression in which the figure disappears almost completely. The two figure paintings in the exhibition, inspired by Gainsborough portraits, seem to bridge the gap between Wood-Evans’ past bodies of work and the new ideas demonstrated in Altered Lands. These landscape paintings are able to evade notions of human mortality and fragility, representing something more timeless and eternal. However, these representations are set against the physicality of nature itself, as Wood-Evans imagines walking in the footsteps of Gainsborough or Constable to discover how the landscapes that they painted have been altered by time.
Click the image above to view the full exhibition catalogue