Printmaking skills of Evans on display
Vaughn Evans has been active in the local arts community ever since he arrived on the island more than 50 years ago.
He initially made a name for himself as a teacher at Saltus Grammar School. He has also served as president of the Bermuda Society of Arts and, in 2017, he and his wife Amy — another well-established artist and teacher — were awarded the Art Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Given such illustrious pedigree, it is surprising that this is Evans’ first solo exhibition. After all, his work has been well-known and respected for decades not only in paint but also in printmaking, a medium that he is expert in; in my opinion he has no equal in this part of the world.
Underpinning these exceptional technical gifts is an aim to make a serious point — often with a sense of humour. This exhibition illustrates that in the last half-century Evans has rarely missed his target.
I recall several of his works. Back in the tourism boom 1980s, the pink cottage was an island cliché. Evans ripped that cliché apart in a highly humorous painting titled Four Pink Cottages.
In the late 1990s, the Bermuda Society of Arts faced eviction from its gallery in Hamilton’s City Hall by the capital’s corporation. Evans created for the occasion, a woodcut depicting the funeral of the society with a gaggle of turkeys fleeing the mayor’s parlour in the background. It was a political point well made.
This current show is comprised mainly of Evans’s relief prints — probably the oldest and simplest method of printmaking.
The plate, or block, is made from a chunk of wood from which the artist draws his design. The part of the design to be left blank is gauged out and the surface is then inked before being placed on paper.
Most of the 48 works in this show are relief prints — a broad term that demonstrates Evans’s versatility with jigsaw prints and reduction prints both on show here.
Maori King, in which the artist has made a print using both the front and back of the plate to produce mirror images, is one excellent example of his jigsaw work.
Reduction printing is a tricky process. In order to produce a clean line, the paper must be placed in exactly the same place when each colour — light to dark — is sprinted. Evans executes this brilliantly in Star Dust.
One very simple woodcut that catches the eye is Kites Over St George’s, in which the ‘woodiness’ of the block shines through.
The largest print here is one that featured in a recent Bermuda National Gallery Biennial entitled Extinction Road. This is a lino print that is incredibly detailed and, unusually, printed on linen. It’s a powerful work of art indicating that the seven deadly sins will lead to our extinction.
Another highlight is West End Breeze, a large, hand-coloured image in which colour has been added to the print after it was pulled from the plate. Here, Evans has produced a striking design out of what appears to be mundane subject matter — laundry on a clothesline blowing in the wind. Both colour and composition are stunning.
This is an exhibition that is both well-deserved and well worth a visit.
• Relief Prints from My Collection: A Solo Exhibition by Vaughn Evans, runs until July 2 in the Edinburgh Gallery at the Bermuda Society of Arts