I make abstract paintings originating in observation. What I find visually enthralling in the world has deep connections with questions I have about how we experience and inhabit the world. Growing up between Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, travel between these two cities along the southern shore of Lake Michigan shaped the dialectic at the core of what I have brought to my exploration of abstraction: the miles of steel and oil industry lighting up the sky with flaming towers, through which one can glimpse the spaciousness and unbroken horizon of the Great Lake. I am drawn to movement of light, reflections on water disordered by what lies underneath, and the premonition of metamorphosis perceptible in both industrial and natural structures. In the way that sound, rhythm, and breath build compression and express feeling in a lyric poem, I use contrasting color, contrasting spatial depths, and a wide range of marks, gestures, and the physicality of paint- from sheer washes to thick impasto – to suggest the way intimacy, alienation, struggle, and freedom exist in the psyche in a constant state of flux. I aspire to express a profusion of activity, developed with a keen desire for uniting near and far, small and large, the loud and the quiet, the rent with the joined.
My interest in abstraction is also grounded in the history of painting. While living in England in the early 1990s I began a practice that is on-going- working from, and studying paintings in museum collections, primarily in London, New York City, Venice, and Mia. Sketching helps me stay in a painting for hours and discover things that come forward only after sustained looking. The power of gestural line led me to engage with the complex, exuberant paintings of the Italian Baroque painters, Giambattista Tiepolo and Tintoretto in particular, whose Venetian color, animation, and high-spirited gestures, are very alive and moving. I have paid particular attention to their compositions and how they combine architectural structure with the figure, which in an abstract sense can be a creative tension between geometry and the organic, or the human made structure in a dialogue with the natural world. I bring what I learn from these historical investigations to my own work, in order to make contemporary work that enlarges my vocabulary and grounds my work in the history of ideas.
My latest body of work, Heart, Bright Dark, was developed using the IPad as a sketching tool, working with images of flooded rivers in wooded areas that evolve through collage, sketching, and paintings tools. This allows me to work quickly through many ideas on a small scale before they become the sketches that are translated into oil paintings.
Evans has shown nationally and internationally, and has work in several museum and corporate collections. She has received the Jerome Foundation Grant, Arts Midwest/ National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board grants, the Pew Grant to study and paint in Italy, and residencies at the American Academy in Rome and Atlantic Center for the Arts. Evans has a BFA from Calvin College, and received her MA in painting at the University of Iowa, and MFA in painting from Stanford University.
Jil Evans is represented by Kolman & Pryor Gallery.