Nick Evans and Tony Swain
Inverleith House, Edinburgh, until Sun 20 Apr
PAINTING AND SCULPTURE
Two Glasgow-based artists have been brought together and seemingly linked by their aptitude for and interest in the process of making. It gives this exhibition an appealing rawness and physicality. But perhaps this exhibition works so well because Evans and Swain both demonstrate such an acute awareness of the formal and historical concerns of their media: Evans with sculpture, Swain with painting.
Downstairs, Evans’ intuitively constructed sculptures occupy three rooms, presenting a range of materials, sizes and presentations. In one room, tall and totemic stacked blocks of rough-cast aluminium tower over our heads, while, in the next, a row of delicate porcelain vessels are found quietly lined up on a shelf. By contrast, in the third room, a giant Z-shaped wedge of plaster, scratched into with linear patterns, lies scrunched on the bare floor like an injured animal. In spite of Evans’ sparse colour range, these varying shapes and textures create contrasting visual sensations and elicit a range of physical responses, making us look up, crouch down or walk around, reminding us of our own body’s relationship to the work. While Evans is clearly influenced by modernism, representational territory seems not so far away, particularly given titles such as ‘Figures Standing’ or ‘Figures Fallen’.
Swain also occupies the space between representation and abstraction, yet his approach of pasting together and painting over newspaper or magazine cuttings lends it a closer relationship to reality from the outset. Again, the works vary in size, but are relatively small and unimposing. That they remain unframed retains both their physicality and their original function as hand-held objects, lending them an approachable familiarity. But it is Swain’s transformative surrealist skills which give these works such an intriguing presence, and the larger works give him room to demonstrate this to greater effect, where giant staircases or swathes of paint overlap houses, pyramids and stadium lights. Swain creates internally complex images which nod to previous painters from the Cubists to the Surrealists, but like Evans he maintains a freshness of approach which is entirely contemporary.