There & gone: Rob Evans enjoys the architecture of suggestion

At first glance, the subjects of Rob Evans' paintings seem to be missing.

His settings look like places just vacated. It's as if the people he was painting abruptly left the room while Evans, blissfully unaware, kept working. What's left behind is an incredible collection of empty spaces. If that sounds dull, don't believe it; people would only be a distraction from the intricate angles and perspectives captured by Evans' brush.

A glance over Evans' work poses lots of questions. What's through that door? Where do those stairs lead? Who was just working in the kitchen, and why did they leave? One almost expects to peer behind his paintings to see the answers waiting. But they're not. (I checked.) Evans wisely leaves certain details for the imagination to fill. It's the absence of subjects which gives the viewer so much to explore.

Take for example "Threshold II," a pair of digital prints. The work gives odd perspectives of a home, with scant hints of rooms beyond half-open doors and tantalizing clues of the occupants: a stack of paintings leaning against one wall, a steaming bath drawn and waiting, nicks in the walls, scratches in the hardwood floor.

If there were people there, I doubt the details of the home would be so fascinating. People steal the attention away from the background they occupy. "Evening Ritual" shows three views in a kitchen, with leftover pasta by a sink, dirty dishes, a half-open fridge and a half-empty bowl of dog food. An open door to the snowstorm outside gives a hint where the occupants have gone; a chair and drink waiting by a fire let's you know where they're going.

It's a kind of sharp realism that doesn't just show a picture, but makes the viewer want to look beyond the visible images and find a story there. In the oil painting "The Game," a Monopoly board has been abandoned on a porch, a scattering of tiny red hotels and a pair of dice the only sign that someone was playing. Framed by the lines of porch, table and chairs, the game board mimics the scattered lights of a distant town, while an arcing jet stream provides accent to the fading twilight sky.

Unusual framings are another Evans trademark. The artist uses angles and shapes to create pictures within pictures and draw the eye past the obvious. Sometimes, his technique is obvious: a painting propped on the floor or a sketch tacked to the wall. Sometimes, he's more subtle, using fences, tree trunks, windows, doorways and the corners of walls to set his images apart.

In "Net," another digital print, Evans makes use of the natural line between sand and shore, the rectangles and squares of a volleyball net, the curving ruts of tire tracks in the beach, and the distant jags of lightning. The watercolor and pastel painting "Pursuit" is dominated in the foreground by a still-life of shells in a basket. Through the window behind it, however, lies a landscape painting of the world beyond. In the oil painting "Isosceles," Evans uses the natural boundaries of tree, cloud and horizon along with the modern lines of a television antenna and distant jet stream to form his triangles.

Evans said he has a deep fascination for angles and spaces. "I'm a frustrated architect at heart," he said.

[by Tom Knapp]

[ visit the artist's website ]