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Still lives: Tony Evans, sculptor

Stephanie de Leng is studying a former man from the Pru who is carving out a different life policy. Samuel Beckett is in here too...

Published on December 2nd 2009.

Still lives: Tony Evans, sculptor

It was not until he was in his mid fifties that Tony Evans gave up his day job and went to art college.

His transformation from insurance salesman to extremely talented and increasingly successful sculptor is nothing short of extraordinary. To look at it is hard to imagine he ever made a living selling life policies and, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed to discover this.

His eyes are large and penetrating and so arresting that you are sure you have met before. I passed him at an exhibition in the Liverpool Town Hall and stopped to say hello, then realised I did not know him at all. His work I was already well acquainted with, however, through the excellent and witty photographs taken by Jim Connolly.

Tony’s sculptures are of animals fashioned from hammered copper and bronze, the anatomy dissected to leave you with neither skeleton nor sinew, but an alluring mixture of both.

They impart the impression of flight, but Tony does not. He is calm and steady, and incredibly modest, almost as if his success has caught him by surprise.

After I had overcome my embarrassment at thinking I knew him, I asked Tony to sit for me. This was solely because his face bore a striking resemblance to that of Samuel Beckett as portrayed by the acclaimed Jane Bown, a photographer who was my earliest inspiration.

When I first started off, I will confess that on the technical side I was somewhat lacking and when it came to flash this was more apparent than anywhere else.

Quite frankly flash terrified me, so much so that I called my business “Black and White in Natural Light”, just to make things clear. So it was to my great delight that I discovered that the great Jane Bown not only shot

exclusively black and white, but also did not carry a flash. I make do with a light bulb if I must, she said. I tried it and it worked.

So back to Tony. I wanted to “do” him à la Jane Bown meets Samuel Beckett. I think Tony thought I wanted to “do” him in another way, and so, as a happily married man, he was understandably somewhat cautious.

However, I managed to convince him and turned up at his studio based in an old bridewell one sunny afternoon. He was in the midst of fashioning an immense Pegasus for The City of Liverpool, and it dominated the dusty room with its rusty shades of spatula-ed bronze and copper.

There was a little too much light there for my purpose, but I spent about ten minutes moving Tony around in the room’s darkest recesses on the off chance and then bid him farewell. Jane Bown was always quick.

The photos were good, but not quite what I had in mind so we met again some months later to repeat the shoot. I asked him to wear a black turtleneck and meet me at Starbucks on Castle Street. Always the gentleman, Tony wore the jumper (borrowed) and paid for the coffees (insisted). This time I had taken the precaution of bringing the image of Beckett with me to show him.

Tony was impressed and, thus prepared, we went down to the depths of James St Station. There, in front of the lavatorial yellow Victorian tiles lit hazily by the smog encrusted underground lamps, I took him. The photo is as craggy and haggard as I had hoped. Like his animals defined by hammered metal, so Tony’s face was chiselled by the light into sinews and shadows. Fitting, I think.

*Stephanie's first, jolly good book, People in Liverpool, £19.99, is available from Waterstones, Liverpool, or directly through www.stephaniedeleng.co.uk

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Norman kennyDecember 2nd 2009.

A very good look a like a fascinating story,it was interesting read.

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