by Mary Fletcher
Evelyn Williams died in 2012, having completed a body of work said to be hard to categorise and having left a Trust to help women artists. I was told at Anima Mundi that the director, Joseph Clark, found a painting by her in a charity shop in Wadebridge and purchased it. It turned out to have been stolen from a show and he decided to organise this exhibition of her paintings. There were two books about her oeuvre to peruse.
Most of the works had two figures in them so the relationship between them seemed to be the subject. One had a naked woman emerging from the side of a naked man, recalling the biblical creation story. I didn’t like the very pink fleshy tones of the bodies, a bit like Lucian Freud but not I think observed but imagined. The backgrounds contrasted with the bodies to emphasise them as the focus. They are striking works, but to me didn’t embody clear feelings. Maybe they are worked on too long, which results in a certain heavy-handedness. One small picture of two heads in watercolour was much more spontaneous looking, so I thought the artist when making large works had found it difficult to maintain her freshness of approach or maybe didn’t value that and wanted to make more deliberated images when working on a larger scale. The artist said her subject was ‘inner thoughts, other worlds’.
Reading about her I am horrified to see Evelyn Williams was sent to board at Summerhill School before she was three and spoke of a remaining sadness from this. I would say she suffered abandonment by her parents. She also felt her whole generation were affected by the Holocaust and did a great picture of a huge bomb exploding over a mass of people – depicted naked to show their vulnerability and given a timeless quality.
Anima Mundi shows an interesting video on the website of an interview of the artist on BBC Wales 2007, and I am left pleased to learn about her.
Prices range from £2,800 to £13,000.
Carlos Zapata is from Colombia but lives in Falmouth. He uses a variety of materials for his sculptures of figures and works in different sizes. There are references to gods and to Celtic culture. The waxed steel ‘sacred book’ has ragged-looking pages with no discernible text as if it has been burnt.
I liked best Celtic Mother, in grey polyphant stone, smaller than life size and a gentle, tender image.
There was an expressive charcoal drawing Bog Man and a roughly textured textile version in 3D.
Celt was a painting of a man as if dead, with the head and genitals blocked out by added pieces of hessian – the reason not being apparent. I like his figures when they are whole, but the torsos and heads are more macabre.
I’ve preferred other works by Zapata, some with South American influences, but it’s always interesting to see his sculptures because at their best they have a simple directness that is very appealing.
Prices range from £1,800 to £7,200.
Evelyn Williams and Carlos Zapata at Anima Mundi Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, UK. February 22nd to March 31st, 2020
Volume 34 no 5 May / June 2020