Jane Evans 1946-2012
Nelson artist Jane Evans leaves a legacy that reflects life the way she saw it rather than what it was like at times, her friends and colleagues say.
"There was a style about her that was very life-affirming and that was reflected in her art. She painted life the way she wanted it to be," friend and Bishop Suter Trust chairman Craig Potton said.
Ms Evans, who celebrated her "pensioner party" when she turned 65 last New Year's Eve, died peacefully at her Russell St home on Friday night surrounded by a close-knit group of friends and family. Her brother, Nelson photographer Bill Evans, had been at her side almost constantly.
Ms Evans had battled lupus, a chronic and debilitating health condition, since her late teens. Her health began deteriorating earlier this year, leaving her largely unable to paint. Her last piece based on a genre she is well known for, in this case poppies, remains in her studio.
At Ms Evans' request a private cremation service was held on Saturday, followed by an informal gathering at her home. A memorial service is to be held at Nelson's Christ Church Cathedral at 2pm this Saturday.
The value Ms Evans placed in her friends was evident in the note she dictated to her personal assistant Gwitha Nash just before she died: "I've lived a very charmed and blessed life due to my friends."
Long-time friend Ainslie Riddoch and another close friend, Diane McKinnon, said Ms Evans would be remembered for many things, but mostly for her contribution to the arts and environmental fields, her generosity and hospitality.
"She had 48 years of chronic illness but managed to live a very full life," Mrs McKinnon said.
Mrs Riddoch said her house was important to her and everything had to be visually beautiful.
Mrs McKinnon said she was superb at creating beautiful environments.
"When people came to buy a painting they left with part of that environmental experience.
"People love living with Jane's paintings. Very few have come back on the market."
Ms Evans was an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a patron of the Nelson Arts Festival since its inception in 1995, resident judge for the first five years of the World of WearableArt Awards in Nelson, an honorary life member of the Adam Chamber Music Festival and an honorary life member of the Nelson Suter Art Society.
Mr Potton said she was also the Suter Art Gallery's ambassador, and a driving force behind its redevelopment plans which have gone through various incarnations since 2000. "Her death will leave a very big gap in the Suter's campaign and we have to keep it going in her memory.
"She is irreplaceable but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't carry the Evans flag. She will be sorely missed but we've been very lucky to have had her," he said.
He described her as "very much a Nelson girl" who was never fazed by the lack of critical acclaim achieved by other New Zealand artists.
"She was not a turgid, self-involved sad-sack like some of us," Mr Potton said.
She was unlike a lot of other artists because she "got stuck into the politicians and the money-makers", he said.
"She had glamour and poise, and did the socialising well."
Friend and fellow Nelson artist Sally Burton said her skill was in cultivating contacts that led to commercial acclaim, which allowed her to live the life she wanted.
"She was a great example of someone who lived their passion and who made a living from that.
"She was a leading light in the art world. She spoke eloquently, she was intelligent and was always glamorous.
"She was definitely the queen and I don't think anyone else would want that crown. That moment has gone."
Ms Burton described her as the "most amazing, stoic person" who never complained about what she had to put up with.
Mr Potton said it was an admirable trait that she never played that card.
Mrs McKinnon recalled the time Ms Evans had another go at skiing, which was something she had enjoyed as a girl at Mt Robert.
"It took a huge amount of grit and pain, but there was a great deal of joy and happiness too."
Ms Burton said it was incredible that her whole artistic output, apart from a series around the 1970s which took on a more serious tone, was so full of joy and colour.
"She loved life and saw the funny side of many things."
Ms Evans never married or had children but remained close to the children of her former partner, the late David Furniss, particularly his daughter, Nelson artist Kathryn Furniss.
Mr Potton said the Suter would be adding more of Ms Evans' works to its own collection, and would be honouring her in the development of the new building.
"She has been a cornerstone of it. She was very happy with the work we showed her before she died.
"She was able to see the proposal and drawings and she was grinning from ear to ear."
The Very Rev Charles Tyrrell is to conduct a memorial service for Jane Evans at the Cathedral at 2pm this Saturday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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