Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Metamatters and Matterfors

Metamatters and Matterphors

By Tom Wachunas

   EXHIBIT: Mythography 2.0, artworks by Scott Alan Evans, at Merging Hearts Holistic Center, 3751 Burrshire Drive NW, Canton, THROUGH FEB. 28, viewing hours variable – CALL 330.451.6214, or email inquiries to
Exhibit background and artist statement:

   Aegolius had worked himself into one of his famously flustered states. This was always the case whenever he visited an exhibit of what he called ‘postwhatsit’ art. “Well, I’ve never seen anything quite this…,” he blurted, “…and, well, I mean anything I could call…” His whiny voice trailed off into indecipherable muttering.
   Nyctea stroked his back gently and cooed, “Relax. It’ll come to you.”
   After a few more minutes of nervous pacing around and squinting at the strange works, wide-eyed Aegolius finally screeched, “Metamatters and matterphors!”
   And just as she had done countless times before, Nyctea nodded her approval. “Perfect,” she said.
 - From “Mournings of the Grebes” by June Godwit –

    Of this collection of mixed-media works sourced in folktales, fantasy literature, and mythology, Scott Alan Evans says in his statement (see link above), “…To me this is a form of alchemy. The goal is that the art becomes magic and (if done well) the artist becomes shaman and story teller.”

   All true artists are modern-day shamans to one degree or another - conjurers, intercessors, interpreters.  More to the point here, their works can be bridges to other, more “mystical” dimensions of our consciousness and how we process them.

     The articulation of the mystical or fantastic has given rise in recent decades to an increasingly popular visual genre usually referred to as “fantasy art,” or “fantasy illustration.” And I admit to expecting as much when I went to view this exhibit, if for no other reason than its title. But these works by Scott Alan Evans don’t fit the stylistic mold commonly associated with the genre – an aesthetic brand, actually, characterized by a practically obsessive attention to elaborately detailed illusionism. I’m thinking of the kind of specialty art featured, for example, at Ikon Images gallery in downtown Canton (ARTWACH archive, Nov. 1, 2015). It’s interesting and even somewhat counterintuitive that hyper-realistic iconography of this sort can often leave little to the imagination of the viewer.

   Evans’ images, on the other hand, in traversing much of the same conceptual territory as fantasy art, are decidedly less precious in formal execution. Still, they’re fascinating enough invitations for us to fill in the blanks. Their impact lies not in meticulously depicting the physical illusion of specific alternate realities, but rather in how they suggest a materiality of mood, or the penumbral atmosphere of strange locales and phenomena.

   While the painting technique evident in some of these images is not what one might readily label as classically refined, it is nonetheless appropriate to their content in its sheer expressivity. And here’s where things get really intriguing. Evans’ strongest pieces are hybrid images, wherein paint is not a tactile presence (as it is in the visceral impasto acrylic work, “Archipelago,” for example), but rather incorporated and re-presented as areas of color and texture within the picture plane of digital photographs. In works such as “The Phoenix Rises” and “Siren Song,” what looks like thick paint isn’t paint, but a picture of paint – an embedded memory, or a document of a past action in real time.

   We could, then, call Evans a contemporary shaman. Beyond turning paint into ice or fire or a churning sea, his digitalized methodology has conjured arresting metaphors for both the making of myths and the creative process itself. Casting aside the incidentals of vengeful gods, demonic spirits, or malevolent beasts, myths have always been essentially stories of the human condition, constructed and embedded in our history to engage timeless questions about our very existence. Evans’ work is a compelling reminder that we remember our myths only because art, in all its forms, can give them their voice.

   PHOTOS, from top: Leviathan, acrylic; King of the Frost Giants, digital; Archipelago, acrylic; The Phoenix Rises, acrylic; Siren Song, digital

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