Interview with Alex Evans – London, 18th September 2015
Alex Evans originally trained in Drama at The University of Hull and in Theatre at Wimbledon School of Art. His drawings have been exhibited nationally in galleries including the Anise Gallery, MK Gallery, Buy Art Fair and CueB Gallery. His international participatory projects include multi-disciplinary collaborations with theatres, schools, galleries, museums and public spaces in Finland, Japan, Australia and the Maldives. He lives and works in London.
My artworks are a collection of intricately hand drawn cities composed of geometric shapes and complex patterns which manipulate established traditions of mathematical space. They depict hybrid architectural biological systems and networks of the imagined city deploying an illusory sense of scale and an unreal interplay between dimensions.Researching both realised and theoretical propositions within architecture and urban planning practice, from Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement to the Italian Futurist renderings of Antonio Sant ‘Elia, my work explores a confluence of ideas between historically imagined future cities, ancient geometric reasoning and mathematical principles.The cities I imagine and bring to life in drawing neither exist in the past nor the future. They are not solutions to an urban problem and are certainly not liveable places. In the act of my drawing there is an inherent need to describe a better place, to engender a pen on paper Utopia, but within the meticulous order there may be an unwitting dystopian fantasy where the excesses of the city push against the mathematics of nature beyond human scale.Follow Alex on Twitter Visit Alex’s website Lire cette interview en français
Pierre S.: Alex, l absolutely love your work! What is your secret for being so patient and meticulous in your drawings?
Alex Evans: I think drawing is a way for me to express my desire for a certain type of stillness or engagement. It is a calm thing to do. In drawing I can focus my attention on something simple and with a meticulous eye, render an imaginary space. I’m not sure that there is a secret to the patience I have when making my work! It just seems to be what I choose to do. I have always drawn but I guess I am enjoying more and more detail with finer and finer pens.
Do you meditate when you draw? Do you listen to music while drawing?
When I am drawing I will listen to music, sing, talk to myself. I will listen to the radio or have Netflix on in the corner of the room. More often that not I will choose to be completely silent. I wouldn’t call it meditation but living in London I do think you have to appreciate the quieter moments when you can! Recently I have been filming my drawing process and creating short film – that’s a big excitement for me!
What is the source of your inspiration?
I gather inspiration from a wide variety of sources in the completion of my work, but mostly I read books and sometimes use the web. For the last year I have been researching a lot. At the moment I’m really influenced by complex self-organising systems, Islamic design, 20th Century modernism, Italian Futurism, cuneiform, the work of Alan Turing and Buckminster Fuller. It’s all going into my head and being processed and then sketched and explored in my studio through drawing.
I’ve noticed that you have drawn many skyscrapers. Why do you have this fascination or obsession?
Skyscrapers are the ultimate emblem of the city. They depict the pinnacles of knowledge, wealth, power, civilisation. They express the desires and the ideals of generations of people and are such complex magnificent systems. I’ve always been interested in cities but I would say my fascination can be traced to growing up in a new town in England called Milton Keynes. It was created in 1967 and so was still in its infancy when I grew up there in the 80’s and 90’s. There was something thrilling about growing up in a place which was constantly changing and developing. I still regularly go back and the sense of wonder of that place has never left me. In drawing all these cities I guess I could still be searching for that same sense of wonder or mastery over an environment.
Would Manhattan be the perfect place for you?
I would love to visit Manhattan. It is of course a source of huge inspiration to me – can you believe I have never been?! I would love to draw sketches of the skyline and explore the patterns of that place for sure. Recently I worked in Sydney and fell in love with their urban landscape – such a beautiful Harbour City. I visited the Alhambra in Grenada and fell in love with that! I’m always inspired by the places that I visit and even the places I haven’t: Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai – I want to draw them all, I just need to get there!
Have you ever lived abroad? If yes, how was the experience?
I am lucky enough to have worked on a number of international residencies, so have had the very good fortune to live within a country but still have a genuine support system around me. Recently I directed a play in Australia for the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney and before that I was in residency with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme making an art project with local Island communities for a celebratory festival. These experiences have been so rewarding. I was lucky to travel to Tokyo and explore through creative work the regeneration of Tokyo’s numerous underused waterways. I have experienced the world as an artist and made meaningful connections with wonderful collaborators all over the world – these are the highlights of my career!
Have you ever done art therapy?
I have never been involved in Art Therapy as a client, but often when I am teaching or working with communities and participants there is an awareness that the work we are creating together is of therapeutic benefit for sure. People feel better when they make art. They are able to communicate something that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to express – that is why the arts are so important and why governments, individuals and institutions should continue to support artists in creating further opportunities for us all to engage. It’s so simple but not always appreciated!
What would be your best advice to someone who dreams of becoming an artist in London?
In some ways London is a difficult city to survive in, especially in the creative industries. I guess I would remind them that they have to work hard, treat the creative process as a business – something that is from you of course, but not the only thing that defines you. Being an artist is a job as much as it is a lifestyle – you need a thick skin and genuine interest in other people and the wider arts scene in general. I would say go to lots of galleries, find people who understand or appreciate your work, enter competitions when you can, but mostly make great art, have fun and be a nice person.
Are there more opportunities in London?
It certainly feels like there are more opportunities to make connections and networks with other people and institutions in London, simply because it is a huge city. Obtaining funding in London is extremely competitive though and the cost of living is ridiculously high but really there’s no other place in the world quite like it. It is unique in every way and such a wonder to behold, but I often crave a beautiful quiet spot in nature somewhere to escape the madness.
Where would you love to exhibit your work? And why?
I am currently exploring several new aspects of my work, moving away slightly from simply drawing and into industrial fabrication techniques – I would love to start 3D Printing my work, or etching into glass or metal. I’m fascinated by new technologies so I am exploring film techniques and potentially Oculus Rift virtual reality. I would love to partner with museums, businesses and institutions who are interested in supporting my lines of enquiry or to work alongside architectural and urbanist organisations to explore the placemaking aspects of work for the public realm. There are so many things that I want to explore; I am working very hard to achieve these ideas and it’s proving to be a rather enjoyable experience!
Do you think it only takes talent to become a successful artist?
It depends on what one regards as success. Money and wellbeing are two (often unrelated) things. Personally I think you have to work hard, be open, enjoy ideas and take risks in order to be a successful artist, but then again I could be wrong. I’ll find out.
Do you have any other professional commitments?
I work freelance as a theatre director, art facilitator and creative pedagogue across London and internationally on many different types of partnership projects and collaborations. It’s demanding but reaps rewards when I am involved in a project with young people and I can see the creativity and wellbeing of that young person develop. Professionally I work for a number of companies whether charities, museums, NGO’s or funded arts organisations, so every day and every project is different.
Alex, do you have a dream?
What a huge question! WOW! Off the top of my headI dream I will never stop making art, I will never stop experiencing art, that our world will never forget art.