BY Sally O'Reilly in Reviews | 03 MAR 02
Featured in
Issue 65

Evan Holloway

The Approach, London, UK

BY Sally O'Reilly in Reviews | 03 MAR 02

Evan Holloway's work requires the viewer to crouch, peer or circumnavigate each piece. The reward is a glimpse of a spatial, optical or notional somersault. His objects are like compounds with a long-forgotten use, outlandish yet made up of tantalizingly familiar components, all twisted or going off at angles in a most obstreperous manner. Holloway sprinkles Modernist references throughout his work like cheap cologne, and these welded formal structures act as branches or shelves on which to hang his set of preoccupations. Yet it is difficult to pare the residue of Modernism away from the scatter of contemporary cultural references. It is not easy to see which came first, as he has managed to intertwine the two in a seamless, symbiotic coupling. The best example of this schizophrenia is The Sculpture that Goes with the Bank (all works 2001): in it a huge, typical 20th-century, publicly commissioned steel sculpture dwarfs a model of an impersonal bank. The model-making is crude: the bricks are rendered in pencil, and the sculpture protrudes from its plinth in all directions to such a ridiculous extent that it can't be taken seriously. The gravity of both art and financial institutions is undermined from all sides. Ungainliness often has an accord with inarticulate beauty. Here the classic Modernist ideals have lost their vowels. Holloway uses a spiky, consonant-ridden vocabulary of corners, angles and slapdashery.

In another work three metal table-like structures with textured glass tops are skewed as if untidily nested and, wherever two layers of glass intersect, papier mâché faces in homunculus pairs or triplets or deformed quads have been placed between them. Already lumpen, they peer through the distorting ripples of the glass, mutely trapped or hiding. The title, Boo-Hoo Church, is an image to conjure with, as the patchy narrative comes to the fore. It summons up American home-grown religious fanaticism, here represented by a tableau of gargoyles seeking mass empathy.

Stupefacient is a metal structure painted an unsubdued and very man-made green. Three small boxes at about knee height are joined with welded stems, disclosing their contents through holes in the front. Inside one there is nothing but blackness, the second has a felt-tip psychedelic spiral drawing, while the third harbours another spiral and a miniature metal sculpture. It is difficult to frame anything other than a purely mechanical description of much of this work, impossible to find a point of reference in the language of aesthetics. The awkward forms elicit no emotional response, and in this sense the work is cold, yet encountering it does release a physical thrill of comprehension, like getting a joke and enjoying the moment of comprehension more than the joke itself. Here, though, what we enjoy is our inability to embrace something that we know we are not supposed to grasp totally.

This fragmentary understanding tends to spin us on our heels towards a more experiential relationship with the object's physical dimensions. Big Black is a three-dimensional piece of laconic Op Art. A large sheet of metal regularly punctuated with round holes is held a foot away from a correspondingly large piece of paper on the wall, and black paint has been sprayed over the metal to penetrate through to the paper. Through the magic of parallax the optical effect is of a grid of larger, dazzling circles woozing in and out of focus. Holloway has achieved a watertight piece of Op painting with the minimal amount of West Coast effort - a sort of instant yoga for the eye.

Although apparently driven by a relentless unorthodoxy, Holloway manages to dodge accusations that the only thing worse than the obvious is its obvious avoidance. His drawing Performing Jefferson Airplane - a trippy Heath Robinson-esque machine - reveals evidence of the original pencil lines beneath the final pen image, confirming that, although it appears to be a subconscious, associative tumble, the artist to a certain extent engineered the idea, intention and outcome. This cause-and-effect orgy, incorporating horses' lips, clockwork mice and something called a 'zoony board', culminates in nothing more enlightening than a man in a vat marked with the slogan 'Do It'. Holloway is a champion of the non sequitur: his allusions, narratives and objectives are utterly truncated and we are left dangling. Like his yoga figure, .001 Second, suspended above the ground and counter-balanced by a shock of metal poles that sprout from the top of its cone-head, we can appreciate Holloway's references and transformations, but remain in perpetual anticipation of the point of arrival.

Sally O'Reilly is a writer, critic, teacher and editor.