Thursday 24 September 2009

Handel Evans: Artistic Roots

I was recently asked if there were other artists in the family. My second cousin once removed was an accomplished artist his name was Handel Evans (3 April 1932- 5 January 1999) in his lifetime he created an extensive body of fine paintings, etchings and drawings. That moved from figuration to abstraction with a figurative element. Though success in Britain eluded him he had greater successes overseas, particularly in Germany. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I was able to learn a great deal about his work through his mother, my great aunt Marian Evans-Quinn who passed away in 2006. Two years before she died she presented me with a catalogue documenting Handel’s work that I will always treasure as she had written inside;
“ Arfon, this clever and very delightful artist to whom I am dedicating Handel’s catalogue of three decades, will live from strength to strength through his chosen career”

Handel Cromwell Evans was born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan Wales. He was named after the famous composer after his father Joeseph had conducted the Messiah a few days before his birth. Joeseph was a licentiate of the London College of Music who had descended from a family of singers and was said to have had a baritone voice. He had however failed to win a scholarship for his singing in 1934, prompting a nervous breakdown and vowed "never to sing another note in my life". His mother was a designer and fitter from the West End couture houses. The love of music was passed to Handel at an early age and was taught music. He passed his piano exam at the age of four, he was so small he had to be lifted onto his stool by the examiner!

Despite his skills in music he decided to concentrate on his art he studied painting at Cardiff collage of Art from 1949 to 1954, taught by David Tinker and Eric Malthouse. His early works ranged from carbon portraits to gouache. He never strayed from music however as he became a licentiate of the Royal Academy of music. Mentoring under Clifford H. Lewis, who urged his parents to sell everything if necessary to fund his study of the Alexander Technique, to improve his posture.

'The Vaults' by Handel Evans © University of Wales 1989
Having completed his studies he later moved to Grenada in the Caribbean and from (1959-61) where he developed his style and taught art. Producing such complex works as 'the Caribbean Village'. He avoided the 'Avant Guard Hype' He later held a one-man exhibition at the institute of Jamaica, in Kingston in 1962. After his return from the Caribbean, his work changed direction. He was fascinated by the technological advances that had been made while he had been away. The increasing interaction between man and his invention intrigued him, believing that it had become the characteristic phenomenon of the 20th century, and with its formidable potential for good and evil was presenting a great dilemma for our age.
He produced a series of 100 drawings entitled 'Employees' demonstrating sympathy for man's machines and also man's rejection of them. After a period in Germany and Italy he attended the prestigious British school in Rome until 1963. After further painting in the West Indies, London, Italy, the US and Canada. 1968 he had an exhibition at the Lyford Clay gallery in the Bahamas.

From 1975 - 76 he studied etching with Stanley Williams Hayter at Ateleir 17, in Paris. In 1978 Dr. Eugene Garfield founder of the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in Phildelphia, commissioned a portrait. Handel created'Interpenetrations'. A study painted in oil and canvas Handel remarked that the painting was a,"visual metaphor of the relationship between mind and information"

"lnterpenetrations" by Handel Evans © University of Wales 1978
He then moved to Germany to be close to nature and its respect for the arts, as his work never really ‘took off’ in Wales, the galleries were never interested in his work. And being in the centre of Europe meant he could keep close contact throughout the world. He was fluent in German and would make puns from English/ German vocabulary. In 1984 Handel exhibited his work at the kleine gallery in Cuxhaven, and was firmly established in Germany by 1990. Still keeping close contact with his mother whom made all of his clothes. Handel died at the Thanet hospital on January 5th 1999 and was buried on Febuary 27th at Ramsgate Kent.

Shortly after his death a memorial show was held at the Korbach Museum in Germany. In 2001 he was posthumously awarded the first Contemporary Culture Award by the National Welsh-American Foundation. In 2004, The Handel Evans Collection, Archive and Trust Fund was established at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth ‘Interpenetration’s was donated by Professor Eugene Garfield and added to the archive of a thousand items ranging from paintings and drawings along with his two pianos (One believed to have belonged to a high-ranking Nazi Party official).

Described by close friend, professor of Art in Wales Dr. Alistair Crawford as a "tall, erect, elegant, handsome man with a well groomed beard. A charming, debonair man with an inner attraction."
Fondly remembered as an artist often having spurts of vegetarianism, who would ask for the return of his packing materials, often hiding his strict personality. A ruthlessly self-obsessed man, sometimes bitter about 'celebrated' artists. A closet workaholic, driven by obsession, a highly disciplined artist, and an absolute perfectionist.

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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