This article is a review on the Jewelry & Small Objects Exhibition by James Evans held at the Prime Canadian Crafts, Toronto, Canada on May 28-June 9, 1984.
A search for “linearality” is James Evans’s definition of his show at Prime Canadian Crafts. Based on a series of line drawings, the 72 pieces of jewelry and small sculpture were fabricated of stainless steel wire then painted in flat black and red. As a show, it was definitely of the minimalist esthetic. Evans’s line work, however, is not so bare as to be boring. It is fresh with surprises.
A neckpiece angles its way around the body and then makes a subtle change of direction that is accented in red to become the focus of the piece. The brooches sit up three dimensionally to interact with the space around the wearer. Earrings repeat the theme of breaking angles with red interventions. The straight-edged geometry is softened by comparison with subtle curves or twists, or, best of all, with smart red circles. There are a few pieces incorporating slate uncharacteristically shaped into a hemisphere and set into a steel plinth. These remind one of Evans’s past work and it is good to see the continuity.
For some years Evans has been absorbed by line work on the surface of his jewelry. He has explored chiseling silver, gold and steel, and then drawing with graphite on slate. This show represents the liberation of line from its drawing board of silver or slate. His disembodied graphics are most appealing in the neckpieces and brooches and least in the bracelets where they wear with a bit more difficulty. Admittedly, function is not one of Evans’s main concerns. He cares more about the visual statement and the unisex quality of his pieces. Neither is he bothered about references in his own work to the linear neoprene on steel pieces of England’s David Watkins Evans has in his evolution as a jeweler freely borrowed ideas he likes but he has always made them his own.
As one of a small group of Canadian jewelers involved with innovative jewelry on an international level (he is in Jewelry International and Contemporary Jewelry of the Americas, Australia, Europe and Japan), Evans displays for Canadians an awareness of what is happening in the art jewelry world. For example, one of his goals for this show is the “democratization of jewelry” or simply, prices that appeal to a wide range of people. When asked where he is headed next, Evans replies with his usual tongue-in-cheek: “large organic gold rings with pearls.”