It takes a true creative virtuoso to transform a collection of pencil shavings, dead flies, taco shell crumbs and scotch tape into a study of societal angst that leaves viewers pregnant with misanthropic neuroses. Such a genius is British artist Simon Evans — ever humble and almost unwilling to appreciate the significance of his scrappy pieces that combine elements of writing, collage and drawing to convey engaging displays of maps, diagrams, diary entries, lists and inventories. They are inimical illustrations of personal anxieties and lusts juxtaposed against universal humanitarian themes like war, poverty and racism. The titles suggest helplessly yet charmingly organized disorder that revels in the futility of humankind.
“How to live with a loved ones illness — don’t believe them.”
Simon Evans was always doodling and sketching as a child yet shunned the thought of formal art training. He spent time skateboarding on the streets of London. The professional world of skating soon called him to San Francisco. It seems like exposure to the cocky and egotistical nature of his contemporaries started a swirling of distemper and isolation. He got a crappy job at a little coffee shop and sunk into the starving artist role. Bookish curiosities drew Simon into short story writing. He wrote strange little tales with fantastical whimsy. There was a gag about a girl with an artificial apple up her bum. Try as he might, Evans was not comfortable with the structure of literal creation and resorted back to sketching.
Simon admits to romantic notions of the isolationism of Swiss artist Paul Klee — with other common parallels such as mixed media experiments and the soft, pastel color recipes. He was also fascinated by the fairytale satire of Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels. Simon seemed unable to get a hold of the scratchy and unapologetically rough visions and discover a process to satisfy himself. Even though he never produced much finished work, others took notice of the churning, gnashing and turbulent brilliance.
“People look at me better when I carry flowers or eat fruit.”
Amanda Reicher of Adobe Books Backroom, a San Francisco think-tank gallery, gave Evans an opportunity to display his work. In typical fashion, he struggled with the framework of a finished venture and grew exasperated as the deadline approached. In a panicked frenzy of self-loathing he ripped up his pieces, taped them back together and scribbled fragmented thoughts and searing commentaries. He felt strangely satisfied — a pugilistic process — a bloody birth. The Adobe Books show led to a spot at the Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco. He was also awarded a turn in the prestigious SECA show at the SFMOMA. Although Simon has been waiting — almost eagerly — for bad things to happen, his juvenile scribblings of obsessive hang-ups, woes, prejudices and pretensions have become internationally acclaimed. “Oh, sure — the art world feels bad too”- he winces — “Competition, stardom, I don’t like it — it frightens me”. He also does not appreciate the pedantries and classifications of the intellectual art world. Prizing solitary journeys above all, he bristles at the popular notions that the pictures he makes belong to the Mission School.
“Success is a bigger toilet.”
Simon welcomes the judgments of society. How do we react to things simultaneously ugly and beautiful? We look at his work and feel helplessly naked — somebody found our diary that we left out, or the discarded love note to our sixth-grade crush, and has pieced it back together for all to see. To carry the notion of transparency and visceral audience contact further, he has even included his phone number in several pieces. Such a dubious action no doubt renders strange results — but he is not hiding.
“Sex is like fighting but wetter.”
There is a comfort to living in the moment, a security in letting go of regrettable comments, burying past hurtful actions. The art of Simon Evans does not allow us that luxury. He celebrates the insecurities of permanence and display. He breaks down our collective existence with flowcharts of all our materialistic greed, bad behaviors and irrational fears. The look is often adolescent and coarse yet leads to profound, brooding and overwhelming wisdom. Evans admits to being a nervous person. Now back in his hometown, he feels so full of information and commentary that he feels like he is going insane. His cynical nature needlessly frets that he will someday be exposed as a fraud. Habitually incongruous, this worry leaves Simon at ease, dreaming of crawling back to the corner pie shop, making art and falling in love.