by: Andy Brumer
by: Peter Frank
by: Roberta Smith
by: Leah Ollman
By Steve Olson
By: Tibby Rothman
The first art book Ned Evans read was Josef Albers’, Interaction of Color. He was 19, and these simple exercises had a profound impact on the young art student. They taught him how to look. They showed him how to see beyond specific shapes and be attentive to the exchange of energy that occurs at their edges, in that tidal zone of attraction and separation that draws an often imperceptible line between individual forms. He discovered that borders can be hard or soft, they can fizz or slowly hum, appear or disappear in the blink of an eye. Albers helped Evans to become attentive to the moments of inter-action that shape our experience of the world, encouraging him to move his gaze from the centre to the edge. He showed Evans that it is not the specific shape or color which matters, but the relationships that exist between things, the inter-actions that cause colors to be fluid and shapes to change.
Frank Stella also helped Evans focus on the border and follow the flow of energy along the edges of things. More significantly, he reinforced what Evans had already discovered with Albers, that the poetry and meaning of a painting are not dependent upon an explicit narrative or the expressive gestures that convey an artist’s embodied presence. He came to realise that a painting doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is: colored pigment on a surface.
What you see is what you get with Stella, and what you see is what you get with Evans: A structure in which color inter-actions take place. Evan’s paintings are physical objects, constructions that declare their objecthood rather than shrinking into the wall to open up an illusory space. Even those painted on paper declare their substance, pushing away from the wall and thrusting out into the viewer’s space. This functional and formal honesty reflects Evans abiding interest in the architecture of Le Courbusier and the Bauhaus, as well as his years of experience designing and constructing artist’s studios and other projects.
Whilst working on these construction sites, overseeing the project and undertaking much of the work, Evans would record the process in photographs that captured small architectural details rather than the whole building. He would focus on the edges and joins, documenting those overlooked points of intersection and intervention where he knew it all came and held together.
This distinctive sensibility is reflected In Evans’ most recent paintings, where his use of simple planes of color and interlocking shapes is not about exploring pattern or revisiting the formal relationships of minimalist repetition, but about revealing the moments of subtle vibration and visual energy that stitch forms together or push them apart. As our gaze travels along these boundary lines we feel the hum of constant inter-action as one color plays off another sending a subtle breath across their surfaces.
This sense of pulsating energy is reinforced by those areas where Evans disrupts the static blocks of color and sprays paint over a stencil of metal mesh to leave behind a honeycomb pattern. As this pattern crosses borders and blurs the solidity of his forms it creates areas of subtle spatial variation and scintillating light that cause our gaze to skitter and falter, trip up and stumble. We find ourselves lost in the oceanic depths of a rich chromatic space. But then at the periphery of our vision we feel a a vibration, a persistent pulse that pulls us back to those compelling moments of dynamic inter-action. Our journey starts again, we pursue another line of visual enquiry, losing ourselves in the playful poetry of the edge.
There is an overpowering honesty in these paintings. They are works of color inter-action whose subject is color inter-action, nothing more. Yet looking at them can also provide a lesson in looking, encouraging us to notice the undercurrent of vibrations that animate the world.
- Richard Davey, 2020
“Influenced by the same California light and landscape made famous by hordes of Los Angeles artists, and living just blocks away from the beach at Venice that has spawned more than its fair share of artwork, one finds the works of Ned Evans are rich with the sense of depth and atmosphere that the oceanfront geography evokes. The dichotomous relationship between the natural and man made is omnipresent in Evans' work. On a regular basis, Evans continues to employ geometry in his compositions alluding to the intersection unique to the California coast where dense urban topography meets the expansiveness of the Pacific.”
- Robert Brander, 2005
Ned Evans was born in 1950. This means that he learned to read using a very particular first book. Dick and Jane was the chosen reading primer of the public school system at that time. The main activities of Dick and Jane were “looking” and “seeing”. How did it happen that the book chosen to teach reading to American children of the Fifties was coincidentally the perfect picture book for the development of optical perception? Perhaps it was no coincidence. After all, western visual tradition since the Renaissance has been concerned with using the eyes to grab and apprehend the world. America of the Fifties shared a similar ambition. It was poised to grab the international political and cultural spotlight from Europe.
See - to perceive something with the eyes. Look - to use the eyes to examine, watch, or find. Ned Evans has spent the last 40 years developing his paintings with a self-reflexive emphasis on the visual faculties most revered by Dick and Jane. He pursues meaning through opticality. A lifetime spent watching the water, skies and mountains of California has built an acute optical sensibility. He “looks” at the glazes of atmosphere that cause the shimmering of west coast light. He “looks” at the way water ripples over and distorts the vision of his surfboard as it moves through the waves. He “looks” into waves to read their design and intent.
He continues this examination in his studio as he mixes skeins of color heavily weighted with water. He works over and over the skeins in thin watery glazes until he finds the moment of theatricality that is possible, some would even say inherent, in abstract painting. He works to find an ephemeral game plan of rich, undulating color and light. His artistic fathers are the fathers of abstraction. But his mothers are the air, land and waters of his home.
- Jill Giegerich, Professor
University of California, Riverside, CA
As From the Desert to the Sea reveals, Evan’s artwork is infused with the light, space and rhythms of southern California. This unique topography of sand, sea and sun-drenched color provides the structural soul of the works in the exhibition.
The seeds of origin for much of the current work can be traced to Evans’ love of the outdoors and a desire to transmute the physicality of experience to the work of art. The paintings retain a strong sense of the hand of the artist. They are as much lovingly crafted sculptural objects as they are works engaging in the abstract language of painting.
In the most recent paintings, color is applied in broad strokes, often painted wet on wet, to form loose, rhythmic patterns. Some of the panels are dense and opaque concentrations of a single color. Other panels are translucent washes, acting almost as windows through the work. Underlying all is a sense of energy, an exuberant impatience eager to break free of the order imposed.
The origins of pattern and color, so prevalent in the later paintings, began in the sculptural assemblages, and highly textured surfaces of the earlier paintings. In many of the current works, echoes of this dimensional lineage remain, providing structural counterweight to color. Object and paint harmonize in a fusion of form and color – and sing the eloquent song of the artist’s journey - from the desert to the sea.
- William Turner, owner
William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Emotive rather than purely visual, the surf-inspired paintings of Venice, California's Ned Evans are obviously evocative of the ocean's sway, but are not depictions so much as a collective of physical and sensory reinterpretations of the surf. After nearly five decades of surfing and painting, a symbiosis occurs between the two, a deeply interwoven relationship feeds both passions. Evans has compiled a wellspring of experiences of and from the ocean and its countless perspectives - from the beach’s sand to aerial overviews, from absolute immersion to riding the wave and sitting on a board looking back to the land's horizon. Derived from dream, from memory, from the ephemeral experience the ocean can give to those who love it, Evans's paintings have been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe. "Picasso said, 'Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires.'" says Evans. "And I wonder, could he have been talking about surfing, too?”
- Rebecca Cox, Fresh Paint Art
Culver City, CA