Everard Longland has been my partner for 38 years.
Originally a linguist and teacher, he is now a marvellous artist.
But he is not driven in any way to be a professional artist: he just enjoys doing it. But what he does to my mind is now as fine as any professional.
I wrote the following for an exhibition he held in Wivenhoe in 2007, shortly after I recovered from my illness; he looked after me throughout this two and a half year period all the time, and his respite was his art.
Beneath that I have put a few samples of his work.
“I have spent the first third of my life making myself study; the second third making others study; and now I have time to stand and stare”. So starts Everard Longland on the introduction to his web site. A lover of art all his life, he started with oils in the 1980’s working on meticulous copies of the grand masters (he could have made a fortune as a forger). But whilst on a year’s sabbatical in California in 1991, he turned his hand to water colours – inspired by the light and colour he found there. His first paintings captured this in his ‘surf and surfers’ series. From this he turned his focus to flowers. With another long time interest in gardens and nature, flowers became for nearly fifteen years his key theme and probably the work with which he is most identified. This exhibition shows a range of new developments – old themes continue, and new ones are grafted on. In each of these clusters presented, we see a growing concern with form and design: with the pattern in the paint. Everard paints ‘inductively’ – he moves the paint around the paper and then lets it take him somewhere. He starts to sense something, a pattern, an idea, a form, an object- and then he gets to work speedily. Water colour is an unforgiving medium and speed is crucial. And this is hard with the meticulous detail he often works in. The first grouping was produced in the autumn of 2007 and continues with his long standing interest in flowers. But they also mark his renewed interest in medieval art – as in many windows and manuscripts of that period, the flowers here are framed with gold. But more than this and as with much of his work, there are many geometrical signs hidden away in the painting –maybe with hidden messages? A second cluster retains the flower, but now the flowers are wholly in our imagination. They are not copies in any sense of flowers, but are imagined flowers: they are totally made up. Here the paint leads, and bit by bit Everard finds what he calls ‘the perpetual shapes in nature’. The images here are reminiscent of stain glass windows, tapestries or quilts. A third wider grouping is like the above, but here we do not imagine flowers but many others things. Again, the ideas speak out from the painting. They were not designed as anything in particular – you can look and see what you wish. They are almost contemporary Rorsarch blots. Everard sees that (as in all his work) the paint speaks twice: the paint leads him to see things, and then his painting leads you to see things. It is always an ongoing collaboration. The fourth cluster takes a little of the seeming arbitrariness away from the viewer. For here Everard as painter has spotted something himself in the flow, and he makes this clear. Indeed he exaggerates the thing he sees. So if you look at these paintings, unlike the others, many people will see the same things: elephants, mathematical shapes, moons, stars, forests, oceans, shipwrecks, forests with clearings, moths. The progression continues. The next few clusters start to take the geometrical patterns, the shapes in nature, and highlight them into sharper and sharper forms. Again taking his lead from the Renaissance artists – Everard spends many hours looking at the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo, his undisputed heroes – he plays with the shapes. Note the straight line that looks like a curve; the square that becomes a circle. Here there is a Grand Design, a sense of the playful paradox, a creating of optical illusion. The last cluster of these is the most abstract of all. Here are circles, oblongs, ellipses, squares – all found in nature, and now lurking with the Gods. This natural progression takes us to the final cluster – produced over the past summer. Some viewers may think these are a radical break with the past: new content, new forms, new ideas. In fact, they are simply continuations of playing with the shapes, the lights and the colours – but here he revisits his own past, raiding earlier works and experiments, and collaging them into new forms. Here the shapes re-appear in new designs and provide the elements for the viewer to construct stories from them. Most of all he wants to produce work that is pleasing to the eye. He teases with colour, light and design, and invites us to new imaginations, encouraging us to play with shapes. Behind the perpetual changes in all his work, he seeks underlying forms found in nature. Design stumbles out of chaos; vibrancy glows from the light; and colour becomes the core of his medium.