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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Nick Evans at Tramway

Nick Evans... The Eyes Have It

Tramway 2
Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow
0845 330 3501
Until March 31
One of the joys of Tramway, the former Glasgow tram shed which is set to house the Turner Prize exhibition in 2015, is that it changes personality with each body of work which temporarily moves into the space.
The first exhibition to take place in Tramway 2 since it was announced that it will playing host to the UK’s premier contemporary art award, is a solo show by Glasgow-based and trained sculptor, Nick Evans.
Evans, who was awarded one of two places on the first ever Artists’ Fellowship programme run by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Creative Scotland in 2011, has taken the ball and run with it in this ambitious exhibition.
When I took a look around Tramway 2, three days before the exhibition was due to open to the public, it was still a work-in-progress, with the sound of drilling echoing around the cavernous industrial space and the artist having dashed off somewhere in an attempt to solve a wallpaper crisis. 
Hand-made wallpaper, wall painting and carefully crafted plinths loom large in this exhibition as Evans has designed every temporary wall and room space in Tramway 2 with graphic imagery, based on motifs from ancient and lost civilisations. 
Despite their historical context, these panels and walls have a curiously contemporary feel – like zingy Pac-Men caught in a giant repeating computer programme for all eternity.
This fascination with the symmetrical imagery and belief-systems of ancient societies allied to our 21st century world, is a recurring theme in Evans work and with his strong graphic imagination he has created a magical landscape within Tramway.
The temporary walls with walk-through corridor-style entrances, give the impression of having stumbled into a psychedelic temple.
This feeling is magnified by the presence of the real stars of this show – a ‘family’ of large mainly white, but occasionally painted forms made from fibre reinforced plaster. 
Evans describes them as ‘calcified ghosts’ and there is certainly something of the goofy night about these sculptural forms – which are reminiscent of Henry Moore’s giant abstract sculptural artworks. Each one starts off being constructed in the same way, but each manages to morph into its own ‘personality’.
Evans works with three or four moulds and casts them before working the forms into different shapes.
Many of the plinths and printed backdrops for his sculptures incorporate aspects of Mayan, Egyptian and prehistoric symbolism, and help each and every one of the sculptures to exude a distinctive personality. 
Nothing to do 2013, for example, consists of two fibre reinforced plaster parts, cotton applique banner, a wooden frame holding a protect-style banner between the two forms, while Unseeing Eye 2013 sits on a steel stand and is rotated by a small motor.
There is even a section of unfinished forms, where you can see moulds stuck together; a mesh of wooden joists and sackcloth poking through the plaster of paris.
Evans takes us on a voyage of discovery through his own editing process – which in turn adds to the anthropomorphic nature of the work.
A personal favourite – and one which I can see pleasing the young crowd – is Black Eye 2013, a fibre reinforced plaster form with a rip-stop nylon inflatable emerging from its ‘mouth’ and powered by an electric fan on a timer. Once it is inflated, a giant inscrutable eye surveys you. Once deflated, the sculpture takes on a dejected air which left me smiling if a little deflated...
The title of this exhibition, Solar Eyes, refers to the ‘solar eye’ of Egyptian mythology, a dangerous and autonomous entity whose power was celebrated in temple rituals.
Many of Evans’ sculptures share in the symbolism of the prehistoric earth goddesses, also a motif in the work of Henry Moore. 
According to exhibition curator Claire Jackson, this show presents a ‘very tactile’ experience. “Nick has managed to make sculptures about sculpture, but they still have an identity of their own. He’s taken the language of western sculpture, which is informed by so many cultures and societies and invented his own visual language.
“He’s taken a lot of risks and pushed everything to the limit, but I think it works. It’s his biggest and most ambitious show to date and it’s exciting to see how it’s all come together.”
There is a warmth to Evans’ work which made me as a viewer feel a sense of ownership the minute I walked into Tramway 2. 
All these sculptural forms exude a goofy exuberance, but there is an underlying seriousness in the way they inhabit Evans’ carefully constructed neatly symmetrical contemporary – not to mention aesthetically pleasing temple.
Evans has layered the work with so many references; the belief-systems of ancient culture, methods of protest, the iniquities of the labour market and the art market, even.
This is smart art in a smart setting. I can see it being a crowd-pleaser across the age divide because children will love both the goofiness and the graphic setting, while adults will enjoy the way in which they respond to the whole shooting match. The Eyes have it.

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