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August 2016


Unit London, August 2016

Unit London presents the first major London exhibition by Jake Wood-Evans. Taking inspiration from 18th century painters, including declared re-workings of works by Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792) and Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1832), Wood-Evans’ unique style of historical ambiguity produces images that are both unsettling and beautiful.

Faces are defiled and figures appear as apparitions. Subjects range from a ghostly vision of a society lady to a fading portrait of a once proud general and grotesquely disfigured admiral. Viewed together, the body of work is eerily reminiscent of an art collection of a great estate in the early years of the British Empire.

While the haunting redactions of once-heroic subjects might suggest the correcting gaze of a postcolonial sensibility, Wood-Evans’ interest lies more with the original artists and process than with the specific subject. With a strong focus on craftsmanship, his work draws inspiration from a diverse range of Baroque and Old Master figurative painters.

By scrubbing, scratching and erasing certain areas while building up others, Wood-Evans’ paintings are physically pushed and pulled out of the canvas. Thick layers of paint contrast with saturated oil on canvas, often laying the grain bare. His powerful use of light emerges from a loose and instinctive application of paint. Each work bears the marks of his journey and are just as fascinating when viewed up close as they are viewed in their entirety. Wood- Evans’ haunting works are both reminiscent of the pillaged originals while uncovering a psychological depth which encourages the viewer to look beyond the surface of the canvas and question the records of history.

'It is indisputably evident that a great part of every man’s life must be employed in collecting materials for the exercise of genius. Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory. Nothing can come of nothing. He who has laid up no materials can produce no combinations.'

Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Discourse Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy, on the Distribution of the Prizes, December 11, 1769, by the President.

Click here, or on the image to the left to view the Subjection and Discipline exhibiton catalogue, with foreward by Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

Click here, or on the video on the right to watch an interview with Jake Wood-Evans about Subjection and Discipline, filmed at his Hastings studio

To view the full collection of works from the show, see the slideshow below

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