MGM 2003 - Borderlands At The Collins Gallery, Glasgow

By Kerry Patterson | 28 May 2003
Shows Boys of Summer, June Evans.

Left: Boys of Summer. © June Evans.

Kerry Patterson made for the border and stayed long enough to check out this colourful show.

Entering the Collins Gallery on a grey Saturday afternoon, June Evans' paintings come as a welcome burst of colour and energy.

Her exhibition 'Borderlands' consists primarily of paintings and drawings, on display at the Gallery until June 21. Completed by the artist over a 17-year period, the works relate to her contact with the travelling and fairground community.

The title of the exhibition derives from the artist's wish to examine 'the borderlands of the human psyche', and this she certainly does.

All aspects of life seem to be covered here. Her fairground scenes, depicting carousels, musicians and flamenco dancing are exuberant and joyful.

Shows Backshift, June Evans.

Right: Backshift. © June Evans.

'Diva' portrays the flamenco singer Vera Bila, who is shown receiving applause after a performance. The picture is dominated by the imposing presence of the singer, with arms outstretched.

The figures June Evans paints are solid and bursting with life, frequently reminiscent of the work of fellow Scottish artist Peter Howson, with whom she shares similar influences, in Diego Riviera and Vincent van Gogh.

A recurring theme among the works is birth, and mother and child scenes. Death is also covered, most notably in the form of the forbidding 'Ferry-Man', a large scale drawing inspired by a blend of Gaelic folklore and the mythological tale of Charon and the river Styx.

Although lacking the colour of her paintings, the quality of the artist's draughtsmanship is enough to convey the sense of the Ferry-Man's boat cutting through the water, almost about to burst out of the frame.

Two of the artist's early paintings, 'Wyndham Pit' and 'Backshift' form a striking contrast to her more lively works.

Shows Carousel, June Evans.

Left: Carousel. © June Evans.

Depicting miners, these works are painted in dark tones. The few highlights are provided by the headlamps of the pit workers, their blackened faces merging with the darkness around them.

In order to be able to accurately express the atmosphere of the pit, Evans travelled underground with the miners. Similarly, she spent time with fairground workers and travellers, and immersed herself in their traditions and way of life. It was in this way that she felt able to tell their stories through her art.

Frances and David Cohen write that Evans 'expressed her love of humanity in pure colour'. Certainly, the people she depicts are often larger than life, but never caricatured to an extent to which their humanity is removed.

Moreover, her joyful use of colour conveys the love and respect she evidently has for her subjects. In taking a group such as the travelling community, it would be easy to resort to stereotypical scenes and caricatures, but Evans manages to avoid falling into this trap.

The works shown in this exhibition are a fascinating and vibrant look at the travelling community, but equally serve to raise essential questions about our own human nature.

Reviewer Kerry Patterson is participating in the 24 Hour Museum / Museum and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize.

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