What does it mean to evoke? The word has its roots in the use of the voice to summon something up, from the Latin evocare. It has clinging to it a whiff of necromancy, and in the late 1600s the word evocate came to mean the summoning up of the dead, which meant drawing them forth out of the ground in a parallel of the then ubiquitous images of the dead rising from their graves at the peal of the Final Trump. By extension, the evocative artwork is an angel’s trumpet that can call forth feelings and apprehensions that are dead or forgotten in us.
What was Lesley’s art intended to evoke? As I see it, there were two sides to her project. On the one hand, the conventional and decorative, where the content of what she did was derived from established conventions and presented in terms of pattern and colour. And on the other hand, the representational, where the content came from the interaction of her way of seeing and representing with a given world, already filled with mul-titudinous forms and patterns.
She chose different media for the different styles – the conventional she applied decoratively to things around her: sequined embroidery on a mirror-frame or a cosmetic case, a pattern of birds painted onto a wooden bench in enamel paints, gouache illuminations in a hand-bound book, a carved wooden perpetual desk calendar, shown here, made from a hard wood that has been treated like a wood-cut and then decorated with gold-leaf.
For the representational, she stuck to the media of her training: pencils, pens and inks, watercolours, and oils on primed board, but everything, for her, began with the sketch, a quick drawing which attempted to capture the essence of the forms she was seeing.
These she would work up as paintings, adding and emphasizing, composing and re-working until the creation satisfied her criteria. Looking back on her art, I see that what unites both of her styles is an intention to present beauty, and in this way to evoke in the viewer the same pleasures and satisfactions that she had herself had derived in experiencing what she felt to be beautiful. Her art never really needed to be decoded, nor did it attempt to rationalize itself in words.