Jake Wood-Evans’ newest body of work unfolds in a series of dreamlike moments. At once earthly and strange, the exhibition charts a constellation of ethereal vignettes that float between reality and an alternate existence.
Spectral figures and landscapes occupy an uncanny world where past and present converge; multiple timelines coexist as elements of history seep into our contemporary experience. Using familiar reference material, Wood-Evans combines the ambiguous with the unexpected, ushering us into a space in which each painting lingers on the boundary of an otherworldly plane. In essence, The Edge of Reality calls on us to look further, disrupting what we think we know to give way to new scopes of additional meanings.
The artist’s lens is the singular thread that weaves itself through The Edge of Reality. Wood-Evans is not interested in replications, but in excavations. With each piece the artist removes layer after layer to extricate an artwork from any fixed interpretation. Ghosts of the original reference material remain but are shrouded by unfamiliar atmospheres and altered compositions. The reference material for The Edge of Reality includes selections from the Western classical art canon. Works by Joshua Reynolds, John Singer Sargent, George Stubbs and J.W. Waterhouse seem to swim before us. However, Wood-Evans only uses these images as starting points, blending the familiar with something altogether new to unsettle any preconceived narratives. In doing so, the artist meditates on the contemporary mindset that has perhaps dismissively categorised and even derided the original reference material. For example, with After Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose, in green, after Sargent, Wood-Evans leans into a subject we might consider overly sentimental, assessing the emotional ties to imagery that has now been largely rejected by the contemporary artworld.
Wood-Evans examines why, in the face of modern existence, we may have dissociated ourselves from these ideas. By presenting the familiar in unfamiliar ways, The Edge of Reality explores and unlocks the multitude of meanings that one image can carry. Thinking of modern practices of art historical research, like X-radiograph processes used to reveal the previously hidden layers of a painting, these works exhume the unseen. In this sense, The Edge of Reality has no intention of recreating painted utopias; traditional narratives of status, power and wealth are dispelled to reveal what lies underneath, uncovering the alternate realities that previously remained undisclosed.
Nonetheless, The Edge of Reality does not seek to lead us to any specific meaning or narrative. These paintings encourage us to question our relationships to the images that anchor them, to look again at that which we might have dismissed or turned our back on. In a deeply personal process of meditation, alteration and erasure, Wood-Evans breathes new life into something that we were perhaps in danger of losing. In an often impervious and rigid contemporary world, Wood-Evans’ works appear as a courageous call for a return to fundamentals, reminding us of the rewards that come with the endless possibilities of looking.
After Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose, in green, after Sargent
Study for women in a row boat II, after Francis Coates Jones
Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces, after Reynolds
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