New York

Thomas Evans

John Bernard Myers Gallery

If Baranik’s decided emphasis on ethical content forces consideration of expressive power, Thomas Evans’ lyrical painterliness provokes reflection on an involvement with decorative surface much in evidence in current painting. Evans paints large canvases bespeckled with splatters of metallic paint, in the midst of which, patterns reminiscent of prehistoric organic remains (fern leaves, for example) seem to be imprinted. Seem to be because, while from a distance the overall regularity of the fragile shapes makes them appear stenciled on, on closer inspection the bleeding trickles of paint at their edges indicate a controlled pouring technique. Basically Evans’ paintings are monochromatic with tiny dots of variant hue effecting a scintillating surface. The fossillike design is lighter in tone, thus reinforcing the figure-ground opposition set up by the different painting techniques. This shifting of the image between stencil and impression creates a shallow illusionistic space which hovers close to the surface. Yet the dappled paint reasserts the surface and insists on the flatness of the picture place in accordance with modernist doctrine. 

In fact, the surface tends to predominate. One is seduced by its very painterliness, its sensuous loveliness. The preciousness of the metallic colors contributes to this elegant beauty which undermines the primitive suggestiveness of the imagery. The poetic potential of the forms is muffled, and one begins to see the works as decorative batiks stretched over a rectangular support. Perhaps, one might point to a structural weakness in the paintings, to a lack of sufficient “concern” with the edge. Yet more fundamentally, what seems to happen in Evans’ work is the dwindling of art for art’s sake into beauty for beauty’s sake. Undeniably the paintings are handsome, and indeed they do possess a lyric charm. But, in the end, it is the paucity of thinking that one is left with. 

Susan Heinemann