WHAT DO YOU SEE?

By Dev Richards - Featured in the North Coast Journal - May 7, 2015

At first glance, the pencil strokes on the canvas look like the outlines of an unfinished project. "So, what do you see?" Brent Eviston asks, pointing to the abstractly posed figures of the drawing. Then it starts to pop out. It's a rabbit. Or maybe it's people dancing. Or maybe they're fighting. Regardless, the figure to the left is definitely a rabbit. "There are no wrong answers," he assures me.

Brent Eviston's studio, a converted one-car garage connected to his home, is a testament to his nerdery. The walls are sporadically covered in various pieces of art, every surface containing some sort of work in progress, and standing watch from the center of the room is a life-sized, educational human anatomy model. When told that a phrenology bust would really tie the room together, he smiles and matter-of-factly says, "I know!" This is the room where his fascination with neuroscience and his love of art come together and create something provocative. His most recent collection, Apophenia, perfectly exemplifies the sort of curiosity that underlies this convergence of fascinations. It's two-fold: On the one hand, he considers drawing to be a "record of what the artist was thinking," while on the other hand, he sees it as an account of what the viewer is perceiving.

The word "apophenia" means finding patterns and connections in randomness. It's a concept closely related to pareidolia, which is the phenomenon that occurs when people are able to see faces or figures within other visual stimuli. It's a very common occurrence: finding animals in clouds, seeing the "Man in the Moon" or discerning Jesus' face on a piece of burnt toast. Neuroscientists theorize that humans may be hardwired to find faces in their field of vision. It makes sense if you think about it. It's evolutionarily advantageous to be able to pick out the presence of other people and to have an extra few seconds to respond to the possible threat of attack. Eviston took these concepts and ran with them.

It starts with small scraps of white printer paper. Together with his wife, Eviston crumples, crushes and crunches the small slips of paper, allowing them to take whatever random shape might occur. Then, he treats the scraps like a figure study, drawing them in highlighted and shadowed detail onto the surface of the canvas. He looks at figure drawing as "monumentalizing minutiae." Like a meditation, he captures angle, crevice and peak of a figure in pencil. He applies this process to his scraps of paper just as he would if he were drawing from a human subject. Every detail he captures is something else that the audience may interpret differently.

Those interpretations are the backbone of Eviston's Apophenia show and his last few projects (which you can view at www.brenteviston.com). Every person who views any work of art brings his or her own personal experiences, emotional baggage and biased opinion to what he or she is seeing. Those differences in personal focus and interpretation are alluring to Eviston.

Standing in front of the 3-foot-by-6-foot canvas with its three "figures," it only takes a second for faces and bodies to form. From there, it's easy to construct a narrative or meaning to the figures, creating a story where previously there were only abstract shapes. A rabbit and two figures dancing? A rabbit and two figures walking like Two Wild and Crazy Guys from Saturday Night Live? Two discus throwers chasing a rabbit? What if that isn't even a rabbit?

On the surface, Eviston has created abstract drawings from randomness, but his real creation comes from a deeper place. He is creating a thought process for his audience, one that can be examined at a metacognitive level. Viewers get some insight into what they think about the way they think and an opportunity to see the connection between what they see and what they perceive. That key difference between sensation and perception is such a personal, human aspect of how and why we like or dislike art. Eviston encourages you to hone in on that human aspect of creativity and curiosity, with a little lesson in neuroscience to boot.

Brent Eviston's Apophenia opens at the Upstairs Gallery (1063 G St.) during Arts! Arcata on Friday, May 8, when Eviston will show a short, explanatory film on one wall of the gallery. This extra bit of insight into the artist's motivation should be a treat and a rare opportunity.

 

CONTEMPLATIONS ON HOW WE BELIEVE

By Jason Marak - Featured in The Times Standard - December 5, 2014

Brent Eviston has been doing Renaissance-inspired drawings for nearly twenty years and regularly teaches figure drawing locally at places like Eureka Studio Arts. If you think this gives you a good idea of what the artist's upcoming exhibition at Eureka's Piante Gallery will look like, guess again.

Recently, Eviston found himself interested in more contemporary practices. But as he explored this new terrain, he discovered that he couldn't escape his traditionalist tendencies. "The craft of drawing is very important to me," Eviston explained. While he has no intention of abandoning his classical roots, he has developed a strong affinity for other approaches. "I feel a little schizophrenic sometimes," Eviston laughed. "I love architectural drawing, anatomical drawing, I love abstract drawing, so this [exhibition] is a great way to bring them all together and apply them to concepts."

The exhibition, "Contemplations on How We Believe," incorporates drawing, sculpture, and animation, all challenging how we perceive visual information and ideas. "This entire show is exploring the different cognitive tools people use to arrive at their beliefs," said Eviston.

The show centers on what Eviston refers to as "convergences." In their two-dimensional manifestations, they are meticulously drawn images inside representational shapes created from hand-cut stencils: the shape of a buffalo, for example, filled with a rollercoaster's undulating track. "I'm really fascinated by how, when we view information or experiences through a particular lens...it dramatically alters the information," Eviston said.

The sculptures take the convergences a step further. "I started asking the question how can a drawing become sculptural?" said Eviston. His answer—three-dimensional forms cut from plywood with intersecting planes slotted together forming recognizable objects onto which he adheres drawn images. On one side, the drawings correspond to the constructed shapes. On the other side, the connection between object and image is more metaphorical.

The animation project, a collaboration with local animator Steven Vander Meer, turns the convergences into a morphing, meditative loop set to cello music composed and performed by Eviston.

The show's other component is a group of drawings exploring The Law of Identity (which states that a thing cannot be anything other than itself), commonly represented as A is A. Eviston uses this representation to create images that challenge our perception of the law's content and push the limits of what we're willing to perceive as text.

Experience Eviston's work at Piante Dec. 6 through Jan. 10, with an artist talk Dec.11 at 7 p.m.

 

THE CONCEPTUAL DRAFTSMAN by Michael Fagans

In 2012 Brent Eviston was asked to take part in Michael Fagans ongoing video project exploring the creative process.  For more information about Michael Fagans please visit michaelfagans.com

 

Brent Eviston @ TEDx Eureka 2012

Eviston argues that drawing is as essential a skill as literacy and numeracy.