The Discovery Centre, Winchester, 10 January - 29 March 2020
Jake Wood-Evans’ new body of work, produced for this solo exhibition at Winchester Discovery Centre’s Gallery, operated by Hampshire Cultural Trust, is a continuation of the artist’s exploration of memory and mortality. Returning to his enduring love of the Baroque for inspiration, the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin and Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre form the conceptual genesis for Relic.
Here, Wood-Evans moves further into abstraction than ever before. As the reference piece is transformed he uses the canvas to examine the tangibility, or rather lack thereof, of our existence. Jake claims he has always been just as interested in what is absent, missing or removed, as in what remains. He hopes these new paintings have the power to engage and captivate the viewer for even the briefest moment, to provide the opportunity for a meditative and emotional response.
Large-scale and bold, Wood-Evans’ versions of the historical altarpiece are washed with a depth of colour that obscures and fragments the figures of classical imagery that lurk beneath. Yet these underlying forms refuse to be fully erased. Like an artistic palimpsest, shapes from previous layers remain, serving as a shifted, reconstructed memento of what once was. The final products only loosely retain a visual connection to their reference, yet offer widespread allusions to seminal moments throughout art history: there are traces of mankind’s first cave paintings made with earth pigments; the Old Master’s red chalk sketches; Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings and Rothko’s famous Colour Field works. The layers of references and meaning are mirrored by the seeming erosion, reworking and restoration of the subject. These new works offer a scene largely concealed, as if through wreaths of smoke, or the scratched surface of a long discarded, corroded film.
Wood-Evans continues to focus on revising the emotional atmosphere, energy and space that his figures inhabit, something he previously accomplished with such assurance in past Unit London shows Legacy & Disorder (2019) and Subjection & Discipline (2016). However, in Relic he has embraced the tumbling figures and entangled scenes of the religious and mythological imagery of the Baroque. Each painting, and particularly the smaller oil sketches and preparatory works, has imprinted within it an energy, movement and physicality which enshrouds the subject. These are pieces as much about the surface texture, the brush strokes, scratches and marks of the artist’s hand as the compositions themselves. Wood-Evans’ work manages to erode its original source whilst simultaneously renewing and reinvigorating it in a constant, regenerative flux. His paintings are testament to our complex yet inescapable relationship with the past.
Click image above to view exhibition catalogue