Pace is pleased to announce A Handful of Dust, its debut exhibition of work by British artist Pam Evelyn, who is now represented by the gallery. On view from September 6 to 30, the exhibition will span two floors of Pace’s London gallery, with a suite of new paintings made over several months between London and Cornwall.
Working alone, often in periods of intense focus, Evelyn’s process is a relentless cycle of renewal as she articulates her distinctive visual language in countless applications of oil paint, before scraping back and reiterating her gestures once again. She considers the raw linen canvas an unstable surface into which paint sinks and rises in unpredictable ways, leaving her grappling to rebuild and dismantle in equal measure until the composition emerges. The ghostly echo of previous forms reverberates through the finished piece, inviting close and prolonged looking to reveal the painting’s diaphanous intricacy over time.
Evelyn’s approach to paint is akin to a sculptor’s use of clay. She maintains its malleability and fluidity over at least six months in order to intuitively respond to the demands of the viscous material. Indeed, Evelyn considers her role to be more witness than painter, explaining, “Instead of dictating what the painting should be, I place myself in a position where the painting tells me where it’s going and I have to react. For me it’s a very surprising way of making a painting and I like the challenge, I like the unexpected.” In works such as Deluge (2023), a complex web of forms, gestures, and marks surges across the two panels, imbuing the painting with a sense of urgency and precariousness. Evelyn also layers a variety of glazes over the oil paint, harnessing light and shadow to create a luminous quality in the painting’s surface.
Working in an array of scales and multi-panel formats, Evelyn’s paintings range from a meter in height to more than three and a half meters. Her process of painting is highly physical and active as she articulates the sweep of her tall body across the canvas. The large-scale works dominate viewers’ field of vision, inviting them into their abstract worlds as they appear like living, breathing canvases.
At the centre of Evelyn’s practice is an active resistance to familiarity or ease. She seeks out discomfort and inconvenience in her painting process—removing panels, turning canvases on their side, working on the floor, masking off areas of the composition—in order to challenge herself to continue broadening her visual vocabulary. In Hidden Scene (2022), inspired by Henri Matisse’s Memory of Oceania (1953), Evelyn uses collage to obscure and reveal, playing with the viewers’ access to the composition. She applies swathes of raw linen to the work’s surface in the same manner as a broad stroke of paint. The triptych rhythmically oscillates between expansiveness and restriction, as if a view has been blocked. In this way Evelyn’s paintings are characterised by a visual and spatial tension whereby the push and pull of gesture and form are in constant friction.
Pam Evelyn (b. 1996, Surrey, United Kingdom) is a painter living and working in London. Her expansive, abstract canvases are densely layered, richly textured meditations on nature, the body, and materiality. Evelyn’s intuitive approach to painting translates her lived experience in the world onto the canvas, creating complex and vivacious compositions that brim with life. Her charged use of oil paints—carefully layered, scraped, and rearticulated over several months—recalls the seething vitality of Abstract Expressionist painters while retaining a distinct and contemporary quality. Evelyn holds a BFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2019) and an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (2020). She received the Cass Art Prize in 2019 and a prestigious residency at Porthmeor Studios, Cornwall in 2022. Evelyn’s work is included in the public collections of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy and Zabludowicz Collection, London, United Kingdom. Recent exhibitions include The Reason for Painting, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, United Kingdom (2023) and New British Abstraction, Centre for International Contemporary Art, Vancouver, Canada (2023). In 2023, Evelyn was commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, London, to create two etchings to accompany the major exhibition, Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-1970 (2023).