Cymraeg

A World View

Geraint Ross Evans

Picture-making is a useful process to experiment with solutions for complicated problems. A playground to explore possibilities for a better world with the luxury of malleable space and time. Beyond the pure pleasure of creating pictures, pictorial space allows me personally to question and carve answers to today’s dominating questions: how can we converge our individual outlooks with the magnitude of global issues? 

Pictures can hold attention, immerse us in a parallel universe and let the eye wander around an illusion of distance. Powerful images turn a world upside down, and offer a new perspective of how the world can be deciphered. They can be rich stories with beginnings, middles and ends, read differently with every encounter.

Through recent work, I’ve been taking aesthetic and experiential influence from panoramas and murals as well as experimenting with cartography, world building and figuration. Outside the studio I’ve continued to draw from life, research alternative economic frameworks; and explore pathways for climbing out of the challenges we find ourselves in, all the while trying to define some sense of a world view.

Below I’ll be sharing 4 strands of research that I’ve been exploring across 2021; “mural visits”, “Grange University Hospital Commission”, “Panorama and the Holistic View” and “World View”. 

I’d like to invite you into my process for developing large and complex pictures, with the chance to view sketches and thought processes for these works in progress.

Mural Visits 

Drawing from images I admire is like having a one to one with the artist, with the chance to discuss how the image was made whilst taking notes. In July, I visited two murals of interest to me for the first time; The Dance of Life (commissioned in 1951) by Elsie Mildred Eldridge, housed at Glynd&wcric;r University, Wrexham and The Oratory of All Saints, known as the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere, which is filled with murals painted by Stanley Spencer.

These murals are large-scale, complex and made in response to WW1 and WW2 and its aftermath. The subject feels reflective of current crises, particularly the pandemic and climate change, and crucially, both murals offer pathways out of these situations. Resurrection, forgiveness, mindfulness of the everyday and armistice, in the case of Stanley Spencer, are key themes. Despite war being Spencer’s subject here, not a single weapon is depicted. His imagery is full of hope and renewal, where figures are absorbed in routine activities and processes.

Eldridge’s six panels depict a sense of mourning humanity’s alienation from nature. Her melancholy figures do this through attempting to reconnect with the land through ritual, tradition and play – which is insightful for depicting the ‘now’ also. Our resilience is low after the pandemic and our politicians are hesitating over implementing urgent green policies. Many of us found ways to connect with our local natural environment through gardening, or walking in local parks and nature spots during our hour of exercise. The depiction of children and making time for play are integral to ensure there is energy to survive adversity while also symbolising future generations.

Drawing from these works meant drinking in the plethora of pictorial devices used to create such complex images. Seeing how the artists used high horizon lines, emotional expressions, symbolic/allegorical actions and processes (such as children uncaging songbirds in Eldridge’s mural) became useful concepts when developing my work. A portion of Spencer’s mural is devoted to his experience at Beaufort Hospital in Bristol which influenced an (at the time) impending public art commission (below).  

Grange University Hospital

Running in parallel and separately to the ARTTN Making New Work: Artists Respond to the Now Commission, I was an artist in residence creating a commission for Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran. Creating a public commission with a social function has been a project I’ve been striving towards for much of my recent career. This piece is an ode to the experiences of staff and patients as I observed them, using the lessons I learnt from Spencer’s successes in the above mentioned murals, of combining different viewpoints and experiences with clarity.

Gaining an up close and personal insight of a modern working hospital offered rare and intense insights into the human condition through the balance of life and death, pain and relief, fast paced decision making and immense patience.

This was a chance for me to attempt to resolve multiple fragmented viewpoints and experiences into a holistic portrait (of a modern working hospital) which was essential research for furthering my desire to create a space which I can populate with different points of view. The final image knits a series of unfolding panoramic spaces that run horizontally in tiers mimicking the floors of the hospital. The image moves between shallow and deep, interior and exterior spaces, with the landscape high up in the distance. The spaces occasionally cross vertically between each other like a snakes and ladders board as information, objects and even people pass between departments. The NHS, its workers and support network, like aspects of nature that I also depict, is an essential service and another example of a resource under pressure of extinction that must be nurtured, appreciated and protected if we are to live well.

Panorama and the Holistic View

The objective of this research was (and is) an investigation of, and experimentation with, the tension between cartography (bird’s-eye view) and first-person perspective. The aim: to craft a space that is both topographical and personally spatial by putting the ‘view’ in the ‘territory’.

Through experimenting with viewpoints and 360 panoramic space I am developing a way to resolve and depict full viewer immersion on a flat surface, taking inspiration from perception and cartography.

These experiments help me understand and describe limitations of the space which we all individually occupy, whilst offering a bridge to make the imaginative leap it takes to generate empathy between each of us. During lockdown I read Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time, often during my hour of exercise on Grangemoor Hill, which offers a panoramic view of Cardiff. This book is full of enlightening moments which, explained through physics, break apart the human perception of time. Some of these epiphanies created in me a sort of spatial vertigo. An awareness of the planet suspended in space as I began to sense the world turning, just like ‘The Fool on the Hilll’ by the Beatles.

A World View

This aspect of my research and practice focuses my investigations that hold the objective of creating a large-scale history picture responding to ‘now’; a bringing together of problems we face and potential solutions, visible alongside each other.

The more I delve into the complex issues we face if we are to survive and survive well, happily and healthily as a species; the more I understand that problems are interrelated across time and space; a domino effect of one problem influencing the next. Finding a strategy to navigate and illustrate this in a productive way is a challenge, and many models our Governments use are devoted to growth at all costs. This isn’t adding value to our collective and individual lives so we must investigate and consider alternatives.

The use of satire has been a mode that has allowed me to explore global issues and the damaging aspect of the human condition in an unrestrained manner. Satire enables me to allegorically describe the issue of conflict and polarisation as two gigantic figures doing battle over the island with a violence that contributes to self-sabotage, causing destruction to earth’s life support systems.

‘The most powerful tool in economics is not money, nor even algebra. It is a pencil. Because with a pencil you can redraw the world.’ – Kate Raworth

In her book, Donut Economics, Raworth proposes a new economic model to replace our religious devotion to growth. The ‘“donut’” that she has devised offers a spatial framework that I have reimagined as an island space to visually explore and symbolise each piece of the complex puzzle, combining them within a holistic view; describing the world as an interconnected sealed system.

This research and development has enabled me to develop new research and allow new ideas to take root. I will continue my research exploring and visualising each area of the donut model and move from research into final large-scale compositions.

If you have any comments, questions or would like to get in touch, I would love to hear from you.

More info 

www.geraint-evans.com

Instagram @geraintevans_artist

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