April 18-May 24, 2020
Inspired by five historic paintings, Evans’ painterly abstractions explore the role of light and color in conveying convictions about and responses to good, evil, danger, tragedy and transcendence.
Jil Evans has shown nationally and internationally, and has work in several museum and corporate collections. She has received the Jerome Foundation Grant, Arts Midwest/ National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board grants, the Pew Grant to study and paint in Italy, and residencies at the American Academy in Rome and Atlantic Center for the Arts. Evans has a BFA from Calvin College, and received her MA in painting at the University of Iowa, and MFA in painting from Stanford University.
An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars.
– Wendell Berry, “Damage”
My engagement with abstraction began four decades ago with a desire to find a visual expression for the feelings and states of mind I experienced but did not (and still do not) have words for. The visual elements of my work—my visual vocabulary—comes from the landscape of my childhood. I grew up near the steel mills in Gary, Indiana, where daily I saw the factories and towers of flames cutting against the spacious, unbroken horizon of Lake Michigan. The tension between these elements—the industrial, the natural—lies at the root of my desire to articulate visually our fragility and our wrought common search to find a way to humanely inhabit the world with compassion. While my work is not driven by an explicit critique of the industrial world, I have a longstanding awareness of the dangerous threat to human life, and non-human life, amid mechanized impersonal forces.
My work is grounded in observations of natural and industrial worlds as well as intensive studies of historical painters. Both practices deepen my ability to bring breadth to how I work with abstraction. For the past ten years I’ve made hundreds of photographs of flooded rivers, wading into the water to capture images of broken trees, branches, and reflections of the sky. When looking down into disaster landscapes I see a cacophony of destruction that is yet united by the water and the fragments of light underneath and on top of the water, creating visual tensions I want to order and inhabit.
In my most recent body of work, Heart Bright Dark, I brought my flood source images together with studies of light in five historical paintings. I explored the content that light brought to each of these paintings. There I found elegiac light, light portraying the ordinary with the mythic, domestic light with the supernatural, light as foreboding and destroyer. Inspired by these ideas, I find myself taking greater risks with contrasts in color and light, making more emphatic juxtapositions between organic and geometric forms, between places of safety and places of danger; a mirror of how we hold these things in our own hearts in our struggle to inhabit the world humanely.
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