An interview with the painter Jake Wood-Evans

24th May 2019

Jake Wood-Evans is a British contemporary painter who describes himself as a ‘Classically inspired figurative artist.’ His most recognised and celebrated works are ghostly portraits that draw obvious cues from 18thand 19thcentury European painting traditions, and artists such as Gainsborough and Lawrence.

Wood-Evans was awarded a Scholarship by the Royal Academy to study fine art at the Prado Museum in Madrid, and has worked with museums including Nottingham Castle Museum and gallery, and the Holburne Museum in Bath. He lives and works in Hastings, East Sussex.

Ahead of a new exhibition of Wood-Evans’ work at Unit Gallery in Mayfair, London, Candid caught up with the artist to hear a little more about his practice.

Candid Magazine: Where does your inspiration come from?

Jake Wood-Evans: ‘I find inspiration everywhere, but I mostly feel inspired around other artwork, by looking at paintings and being excited about the possibilities they hold for my own work. When I go to the National Gallery to see the masterpieces they hold, it’s hard not to be inspired. It’s not just about looking at the art I love, I use it as a reference in my own practice, so my relationship with some of the works there is quite profound.’

CM: Did you study art and/or art history?

JWE: ‘I did a degree in Fine Art, in painting at Falmouth School of Art, but I’ve continued to study art ever since.’

CM: What was your journey to your ‘old master'’ style?

JWE: ‘At first it was all about trying to make paintings like the Old Masters – setting up my own still life, etc. but I came to the conclusion that rather than try to recreate these scenes, there was plenty of inspiration and reference material all around me, in the art books and imagery in my studio, on gallery walls, and now online. But I’m not absolutely committed to always using the Old Masters as a starting point.’

CM: Who are some of your favourite old master painters and do you go to galleries often to see them?

JWE: ‘There are so many, for different reasons, and depending on how I’m feeling at the time. But to name a few; Sir Thomas Lawrence, Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Velázquez . I also love the work of Rothko, Degas, Sorolla, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Richter, the list goes on and on and on! I go to galleries to see work as much as I can.’

CM: What’s a typical day like in your studio?

JWE: ‘It sounds terribly boring, but I treat it more or less like a 9-5 job. I find the discipline of going to the studio every day helpful. Having that structure helps me avoid still being at the studio late into the night. The day is spent painting or contemplating, waiting for things to click into place.’

CM: Can you describe your process from idea to completion of a painting?

JWE: ‘First I decide on a reference that interests me or fits an idea that I’d like to explore. I decide on the size and plot in the painting. I find starting them quite easy and get the initial painting done quickly, but when the real exploration starts that can take some time. Painting in and taking away, in many ways it’s almost a destructive process. Often a canvas can sit on the studio wall for some time, like an unanswered question, until I manage to find a resting place or balance that feels right to me for the time being.’

CM: What can people expect in the new show at Unit London?

JWE: ‘The show is largely a collection of historical figures, standing male and female full-length large-scale canvases. I have tried to leave the paintings unanswered and open to interpretation, while managing the emotional atmosphere so that there is a sense of harmony between the ethereal and the darker, more disturbing elements of the paintings. The surface has become important in these recent works, creating the impression of a flare of light or an old film negative that has become scratched or fogged over time.’

CM: What has been your career highlight?

JWE: ‘There have been some great moments in the past, working with museums and recently a charity art auction with the Goss Michael Foundation in Dallas that I was involved with. But it seems as though there is always something new around the corner that keeps blowing me away so there is more to come.’

Words by Toby Mellors

Jake Wood-Evans' show Legacy & Disorder is on at Unit London, Hannover Square, Mayfair, from 23 May – 15 June 2019

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