“Watercolor Impressions, at Home and Abroad” is Andy Evansen’s solo show currently featured at the Frameworks Gallery in St. Paul. This superb collection of paintings from his travels in the US, France and China is shear poetry and not to be missed.
The immediate impact of Evansen’s watercolors lies in his absolutely crystal-clear colors. Even in a tonalist piece like “Railbridge thru the Fog”—which one perceptive viewer described as having a wonderful Whistlerian sensibility—the grayed tones of blue and green are clean and rich.
Evansen’s free brushwork and flawless technique create an air of spontaneity in his work that belies his years of training as a detail-oriented medical illustrator. His compositions are simple and drawn from everyday life—a fisherman in a boat, a man smoking a bamboo pipe, a bridge over a railroad track—but through intense color and unique visual angles Evansen imbues each scene with dramatic and aesthetic interest.
“Cypress Shadows, Frayssinet,” from his French travels, is an unusual composition in which warm and cool shadows in blues, greens and violets make up the entire bottom half of the painting. They are separated from the objects in the top of the painting by a diagonal road that runs at an oblique angle to the shadows. Despite the large empty spaces, the picture is full of movement and interesting value nuances.
“Field Workers, Jade Mountain” is one of the China paintings. The soft-edged green shapes of the trees contrast with the sharper-edged tree trunks and showcase Evansen’s decision—seen in all of the works in this show—to eliminate extraneous detail and get to the heart of the subject. A few tiny spots of brown against the green are enough to give the impression of leaves. More detail would only detract from the background drama being played out in various tones of blue.
“Madeline Island Mist” and “Moon Over Artists Point” demonstrate Evansen’s superb control of color to evoke light and atmospheric effects. In “Madeline Island Mist,” the cool blue distant mountains are separated from the sky by a slash of white paper shimmering through the paint. “Moon Over Artists Point” uses a range of purple values in the sky and foreground to evoke solitude and tranquility. The eye is drawn to the silent communication between the figures on the shore and the moon in mid-sky. Evansen downplays the detail in the boats, which stand as quiet observers to the central drama between humans and nature.
Evansen is expert at balancing complementary colors to make his paintings sing. Two small spots of saturated orange in the bottom right of “Madeline Island Mist” enliven the low-keyed blues and grayed violets throughout the painting. In “Field Workers, Jade Mountain,” a few spots of red in the middle ground make the surrounding lower-keyed greens pop.
Every painting in this show is a gem, but if pressed to pick one standout, I would go with “Village Doorway,” another of the China paintings. The bold play of light and shadow, the vanishing details that create depth, the subtle values in the stone, the color and temperature harmonies and contrasts, and the brilliant yellow shape just off center create a powerful aesthetic experience.
Evansen’s watercolors are exhibited nationally and have received awards at the local, regional, national and international levels. His work has been featured on the cover of American Artist’s Watercolor magazine, and in International Artist and American Art Collector. Evansen was the only watercolorist to participate in the prestigious 2012 Catalina “Wild Side Plein-Air Art Show,” sponsored by the Catalina Island Conservancy. He was also the only watercolorist in a small group of artists who traveled to China in 2007 to paint en plain air, and he received special recognition in an article about the trip published in the May 2008 edition of Watercolor Artist.
Evansen’s future plans include a teaching and painting trip to Italy, the fruits of which we can all look forward to.
Andy Evansen’s exhibit at the Frameworks will run through November 3rd. Once again Minnesota art lovers owe a huge “thank you” to the Frameworks Gallery for bringing the best of Minnesota’s local art and artists to the public.
Visit Andy Evansen’s website to see more of his work.
Contact the Frameworks Gallery for more information.
To see a version of this review with more photos of the artist’s work, visit ArtsMinnesota.