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Anny Evason

image © Anny Evason

Great Dixter in Black and White

First Sight Gallery in the High Street generally exhibits exciting, original paintings, sculptures and photographs by various artists. However, next month the gallery is showing one person’s work, Anny Evason’s, of one particular garden, Great Dixter, HOT reporter, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, takes a look.

A glimpse through hedges © Anny Evason

A glimpse through hedges © Anny Evason

Self evidently, it is not like walking into Great Dixter itself, but the garden certainly exudes its presence. The yew hedges loom large and dense, the topiary stands proud above the hedges, gaps in hedges allow secret views to the world beyond. Even the banana plants (at the top of the page) in their winter protective overcoats look yettie-like sculptural. The exhibition’s difference and surprise is that, for the most part, the pictures of the garden – rather than painted in glorious floral colours, the way that we think of Dixter – are drawn in glorious black and white charcoal.

Annie Rae’s recent monochrome drawings of Venice at the Hastings Art Forum, highlighted the buildings, rather than distracting the eye away from the structures with rich Venetian colours.  Anny has achieved the same thing in her images – she  focuses our attention and invites us to concentrate on the structure, form, light, shade and texture of the garden.

It is extraordinary – and, quite magical, to me – that with gentle and simple marks on paper, it is possible to produce a three dimensional effect of hedges and trees, perspective and physical mass.

Anny first composes the scene in a thumbnail sketch, then for several hours draws, capturing the spirit and essence of the place. Later, the picture evolves and emerges in the studio. “The drawings can take anything up to a year to complete”, she says. “I draw, leave it, go back to it and then leave it to simmer – to cook by itself – until the picture itself says to me ‘that’s it. I’m finished’”.

Topiary at Great Dixter © Anny Evason

Topiary at Great Dixter © Anny Evason

Anny Evason first visited Great Dixter in the late 1980s, when Christopher Lloyd was there. She fell in love with it then and has never fallen out of love with it.  “Because of nature, the changing seasons, colours and textures, there is always something different to see, ” She explains. “What I love about it is it’s a classic garden of prospect and refuge with rooms, different spaces, each with its own particular character. The areas seem  to fulfil our primitive urge of security and contemplation: some ‘rooms’ are enclosed, inward looking, while others have an openness to the horizon with a wall for safety at our backs to look outwards for any likely advancing marauders.”

Great Dixter topiary © Anny Evason

Great Dixter topiary © Anny Evason

Anny has really brought the garden to life. A fine artist, a garden designer, landscape architect and, in a previous incarnation, a theatrical designer, she, unsurprisingly, has flights of fancy about the constrained, animated trees and shrubs of the Peacock garden and the Topiary Lawn. “Thoughts do run through my head about how they might feel, moulded and pampered like that”, she says. “And I imagine them looking over the hedge to their fellow species, the untamed trees in the countryside. Or peacocks and blackbirds in the Parliament of Birds (originally destined to be peacocks and blackbirds, planted by Christopher LLoyds’ mother), at night having private conversations.” Much as people imagine toys having a mischievous life of their own at night, free from their childish masters.

Anny’s recent installation at The School Creative Centre in Rye gave visitors the opportunity to wander amongst giant tree drawings, accompanied by the sound of birdsong – nightingale, cuckoo, tree pipit. The birdsong would start as people wandered through the ‘trees’.  If there was too much chatter the birds would quieten and the sound of a jet bomber would screech through the environment.

The nightingale is singing again at First Sight Gallery. The migratory nightingale is alive in East Sussex, but in diminishing numbers. Anny’s neighbour, Frances Inskipp, 93,  (featured in the film Extraordinary Times) remembers hearing the pure melody of the nightingale singing in St Leonards.

Great Dixter’s atmosphere seems to have seeped in and cast its spell on Anny Evason, because tints have found their way into  a few of the pictures. So the exhibiton is a delight for the senses –  black and white, colour, form, texture – and sound.  Go and enjoy it.

Anny Evason‘s  exhibition at First Sight, 34 High Street, Hastings TN34 9AA  until November 17, Friday – Sunday 10am-5pm.

Posted 15:25 Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 In: Visual Arts

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