Solar Eyes

Jackson, Claire
Exhibition Text, Tramway, Glasgow

At Tramway, his most ambitious exhibition to date, Glasgow based sculptor Nick Evans (born Zambia 1976) presents a newly commissioned body of works within an environment which is part theme park and part lost civilisation. ‘Solar Eyes’ features a new body of plaster sculptures orchestrated in such a way that they each respond to their own environment, the most ambitious of which is a large architectural complex which mimics the geometry of a Mayan temple. Ancient symbolism is also evoked through an ambitious wall drawing running the length of the gallery and a number of colourful printed backdrops, plinths and floor panels.

Evans makes solid organic forms from white plaster which combine abstract and figurative elements, and convey a visceral energy – often works have a functional or performative aspect or appear to be interacting with their surroundings. The plinths and dioramas for the works are highly decorative, becoming elaborate stages in which the sculptures act as performers. Some appear elevated like classical sculptures, others hold banners with crude representations of themselves, revolve on podiums or have absurd inflatable appendages, whilst many appear partly destroyed or in various stages of completion. In the corner of a room a sculpture has a picnic table inserted into its side, complete with the remains of a feast rendered naively in ceramics. Each sculpture is actively engaging in the language of its own representation, and each implies a different context; commercial, political, historical, social or spiritual.

The eclecticism of materials in Evans practice explores the historical relationship between sculpture and the applied arts, incorporating a diverse range of processes. Whilst exploring the physical parameters of sculpture and the tensions between from and material, sculpture and plinth, mass and gravity, Evans also points to more complex cultural and ideological relationships. In particular the Western fascination with notions of the exotic and ‘other’, conjured up through his humorous and disorienting juxtaposition of forms and styles.

Hieroglyphs and motifs from ancient and lost civilisations are recurrent within the artists vocabulary – many of the plinths and printed backdrops for his sculptures incorporate aspects of Mayan, egyptian and prehistoric symbolism, reworked as bold, graphic representations.Often Evans incorporates a number of motifs, choreographing them into a hybrid visual language which appears in different configurations, repeats and varying scales throughout the exhibition. This language often manifests solely for one body of work and is then discarded, setting up each space as a hermetic universe in which signs and symbols appear in different contexts, ranging from decorative repeats on wallpaper to large scale imposing motifs on banners.

The title of the exhibition references the ‘solar eye’ of Egyptian mythology, a dangerous and autonomous entity whose power was celebrated in temple rituals, and many of the sculptures share in the symbolism of the prehistoric earth goddesses,a constant motif in the work of the renowned British sculptor Henry Moore. The works indeed knowingly borrow much from the classic sculpted forms of mid 20th century sculptors such as Hepworth and Moore, embodying a critical awareness of the language of sculpture. However these references are lampooned and undermined by the absurd and often humorous modes of display. In this context, the sculptures become quizzical, critical and self-reflexive.