The Canadian Art Database

Ric Evans

Ric Evans studied at the Ontario College of Art from 1967-1969. He has been exhibiting since 1969, with solo shows at Hart House, University of Toronto, in 1972; the ICA, in Sydney, Australia in 1981; and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 1984. He has exhibited on an ongoing basis in Toronto, with solo exhibitions at the Ydessa Gallery in 1980; Mercer Union in 1982; Grunwald & Watterson, between 1983 and 1988; and since 1989 he has been represented by the Sable-Castelli Gallery. In the year 2000 Ric exhibited with the Winchester Gallery in Victoria, B.C.; and in 1999 the Art Gallery of Peel, in Brampton, ON, organized a ten-year survey (1989-1999) and traveling exhibition.

Evans's connection to Toronto painting and the art scene is strong: he was involved with the A.C.T. collective and gallery in the mid-to-late 1970s and was a founding member of Mercer Union in 1979. His work has been linked with a 'serial reductivist' group - the sub-title of an Art Gallery of Harbourfront exhibition in 1978 that included Evans, Jaan Poldaas, Robert McNeally, Michael Balfe and Jamie Lyons. He was also included in several here-and-now survey exhibitions, such as The Toronto Show, London Regional Art Gallery, 1977; Toronto Exchange, Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia and Optica, Montreal, 1978; Viewpoint 29 x 9, organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 1981-82; Toronto Painting '84, the Art Gallery of Ontario; Ric Evans, Ron Shuebrook, Ron Martin, Burlington Cultural Centre, 1991; Abstract Practices, the Power Plant, with Poldaas, Jean Delavalle and Claude Tousingnant, 1991; Fire and Ice: Contemporary Canadian Geometric Abstraction, Art Gallery of Mississauga, 1999.

Lesser known has been Evans's involvement on the international level. During his frequent trips to New York between 1970 and 1974, he became acquainted with members of the Art and Language Collective, including the Australian Robert Jack and British artist Mel Ramsden. As a consequence Ric Evans was included in Fundamental Minimalism/4 New York Artists at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane in 1978. One of the 'New York' artists was the Australian Robert Jack, with whom Evans had collaborated in an exhibition at Toronto's A Space in 1973. (In Evans's most recent exhibition (Sable-Castelli 2001) one of the works was titled Australia. Evans also exhibited at the Kunstlerhaus, Hamburg, in 1979 and at the ICA in Los Angeles the same year.

Ric Evans is represented in many public collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University in Kingston, ON; Hart House, University of Toronto; the Canada Council's Art Bank; the Art Galleries of Hamilton, Peel, and Nova Scotia; the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph; and the University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane.

Over the past 20 years, Ric Evans has shown a consistent concern with modernist issues, and drawing from influences as diverse as Renaissance composition and perspective, to the rigorous minimalism of the late 1950s and beyond, including artists such as Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt. In some respects this set him apart from the predominantly hedonistic and painterly tendencies of the Toronto art scene of the 1970s, what Donald Kuspit described as 'exotic Modernism'. His work of the past three decades can be considered within the context of reductivist tendencies, yet it is less a systemic or purely reductivist endeavour than an investigation of the possibilities available within models of modernist geometric abstraction. His serial approach is best seen in his multi-paneled works of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but this has shifted to an interest in colour and process. As early as 1970, critic Barry Lord wrote that '[Evans] profited greatly from his study of the late Hans Hofmann's paintings. . . attracted by Hofmann's characteristic rectangles of colour isolated in the larger field of the painting, and shortly thereafter began to experiment with fiberglass panels to leave the imprint of a similarly "floating" rectangle in his own work.' James D. Campbell, writing on the work of Ric Evans for the group exhibition Abstract Practices in 1991, saw comprehension, 'not through our reading up on what Evans is putatively about . . . but simply through our attending to the painting as an object that, in his own words, "contains information".' The full quotation from Evans, from 1983, is worth citing: 'A painting should be approached empirically. It contains information and produces sensation." (Ric Evans, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, 1983). In his overview essay for the Art Gallery of Peel survey, Gary Michael Dault reflected on Campbell's other comment: 'a sense of doubleness, twoness, of a residual symmetry'; and added, that it is a 'defining feature of much of Evans's production right up to the present . . . soon enough led from the clarified planes of Evans's coloured geometries to the readumbration of the painting as a bodily presence.' (Both quotations, Peel catalogue, pg. 10)

In the painting, Verbena, 1993, as Dault also observes, Evans is not restating the rigours of a constructivist vision but is engaged in 'humane, enlarging desire'. (Peel, pg. 12) The colours are generated through a much broader history of painting, and generate the duality that Campbell cites, red rectangles on a contrasting veiled ground of colour. This may be read as sensual touch but Evans's painting amplifies the essence of what reductivist painting could do: to create a character. In a Canadian Art Focus article (Spring 1989) Evans's quotation underscores the issue of uniqueness of each work rather than a program of work: 'each of them has a personality for me, as well as mere characteristics.' The 'mere' he speaks of is made up of the quantifiable aspects, how we describe painting that has no 'picture'.

-- Ihor Holubizky (2001)

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