Pam Evelyn – Built on Clay at The Approach, East London, April 2022 – Like we said the other day in one of those Five Art Things things we like to try and bring you on a weekly basis, we were rather looking forward to this one, the Approach, as we said, have been on a roll recently with shows like John Stezaker’s Double Shadow and Sara Baker’s excellent Hems as well as Jack Lavender’s blackness that completely transformed the place. As conservative and establishment as they can sometimes feel at East London’s The Approach, they have been rather consistant and even though we knew very little about Pam Evelyn prior to the show the fact that her first solo show was happening at the Approach was enough.
“The Approach is excited to present Built on Clay, a UK debut solo exhibition of paintings by Pam Evelyn (b. 1996, Guildford, UK). The show title takes its name from the geological composition of the city of London, which has a predominantly clay foundation. As a material, clay is volatile and unpredictable, it shrinks and expands depending on its water content, imbuing it with the capacity for collapse. Evelyn’s painting process shares similar qualities, the title becoming a comment on the work itself”
Now before anything else, let me say both our photos and the photos on the gallery website are rubbish. in fact, you’d be a hell of a lot better off in avoiding all photos and indeed words and just take our word for it and go. The first thing that grabs when you climb those stairs and walk in to the main room is the size – for some reason advance publicity had not prepared us for the size, we were, got no given reason, much smaller works, it is almost a gasp upon walking in, a wow! The big paintings at each end of the gallery hit you immediately. Once again it is about layers, about layer of paint, of marks, of brush marks, of clay, the act, or the art, of building things. About the process, the movement, the boldness of paint. her canvases are dense, the textures almost demanding to be touched, you need to look from the sides as well as the front, you kind of need to know more about the process but then again you really don’t (although some of that process might be found in the smaller drawings and paintings in the second room).
The big paintings do indeed hang impressively in the space, the hang itself is perfect, The Approach always use their space well – the smaller works on paper are in the second room, the annexe. Built on Clay is immediately impressive, once you get over the initial reaction, once your eyes have adjusted, once you settle down and start looking properly, then it is about the layers, the movement, about meetings of marks, paint, about digging down, about the way the land lies, well that’s the way I read things – however the paintings are read, they’re exciting, and no, not just because they’re big – the size is a factor of course, but size isn’t everything and you do need to spend a little time with these expansive pieces and what may have been demolished so she could build again. Built on Clay is a big show in more ways than one, an exciting show, a recommended show, another fine show upstairs at The Approach. (sw)
The Approach Gallery is hidden upstairs above the pub of the same name, they don’t have signs outside, it isn’t obvious,, the door at the left end of the bar will get you up there, there is sign above the door, the address is 1st Floor, 47 Approach Rd, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9LY. Opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm. The show runs until 15th May 2022
Do click on an image to enlarge to run the slide show