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‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum Ocula Report ‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum 19 Jul 2019 : Penny Liu for Ocula

An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...

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Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity Ocula Conversation Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity

Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...

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Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House Ocula Report Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House 5 Jul 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...

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Alison Watt

b. 1965, United Kingdom

Alison Watt established herself early on, winning the John Player Portrait Award—the prestigious National Portrait Gallery's annual award for contemporary portrait painting, now known as the BP Portrait Award—in 1987 while she was a student at The Glasgow School of Art. As a result of the award, Watt was commissioned to paint the Queen Mother, now in the Gallery's collection. In 2000, she became one of the youngest artists to hold a solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and three years later she was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize. Since then, Watt's ever-evolving practice has expanded from portraiture to consider the physicality of materials in paintings of fabric and still life.

Coinciding with Watt winning the John Player Portrait Award, the British art world witnessed the emergence of a group of young figurative painters—dubbed the New Glasgow Boys after the late-19th-century Impressionist Scottish painters lauded at the time for their radical artworks—who also attended The Glasgow School of Art in the 1980s. Compared to the boldly painted work of her contemporaries—among them Peter Howson, Steven Campbell, and Ken Currie—Watt's paintings from this period are more muted in colour. Alison Watt, born 1965. Artist (1986–1987), for example, is a close-up of the artist's face looking directly at the viewer with one hand covering her forehead as if taking her temperature, rendered in subdued tones of grey and peach. In another painting, titled Planters (1986), two figures—one of them Watt, leaning towards the right with her hand over her mouth—sit in shades of brown with subtle touches of blue and green.

In the late 1990s, Watt began to move away from the figure to explore the materiality of fabric in her paintings. Her solo exhibition Fold at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, in 1997, presented a series of female figures alongside paintings of fabric, while Shift—her solo show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art three years later—only exhibited works depicting cloth. In paintings of this period such as Sabine (2000), which shows a cream-coloured cloth bunched up in one corner, great attention is given to capture the folds and dark orifices created by fabric. The shift in Watt's subject matter was inspired in part by the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' portraits of women, such as Madame Moitessier (1856), in which a seated figure wears an elaborate flower-pattern dress with ribbons. Such images' treatment of textiles influenced Watt to interrogate the way the forms of fabric gather and suggest an animate presence beyond the cloth you see.

Other historical painters are additional sources of inspiration for Watt. In 2006, she became the youngest Associate Artist at London's National Gallery; the residency culminated in the solo presentation Phantom (2008), which showcased six large-scale paintings inspired by the Gallery's permanent collection. Watt was particularly taken by the painting Saint Francis in Meditation (1635–1639) by the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán, in which a hooded figure kneels in the dark, most of his face submerged in the shadows. In Watt's canvases—dominantly white but with ranges of grey, red, and yellow as well—the artist examines the physicality of fabric, in a large knot in Pulse and the almost-abstract forms of fabric that seem to emanate from an unknown centre in Host (both 2006–2007).

Watt further extended her practice into the traditions of still life for A Shadow On The Blind, a solo exhibition first presented at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria, between October 2018 and February 2019, and later at London's Parafin. Taking the Scottish painter Thomas Warrender's Still Life (1708)—an oil painting of a letter rack—as a point of departure, Watt similarly painted stationery in her own work. In contrast to Warrender's letter rack, however, Watt's objects appear in isolation, against a neutral background, as if each painting is a portrait of its respective subject. Paintings of paper such as Colyer (2016–2017) and Quarto (2017) portray blank pieces of paper that have been folded and unfolded, while the envelopes in Letter and Easter (both 2018) have been opened and show signs of wear. The exhibition also included a number of paintings featuring coils of tubing—among them Helical (2017) and Volute (2017)—inspired by the Scottish-Canadian artist Margaret Watkin's photographs of domestic objects such as a section of rubber shower hose.

Watt has been recognised as one of Scotland's leading contemporary artists. She was awarded an OBE in 2008, and in 2014 she was included in GENERATION—a national programme celebrating the previous 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland. As part of the programme Perth Museum & Art Gallery held a retrospective exhibition of her work.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

View All (23)
Iris by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattIris, 2014–2015 Oil on canvas
120 x 80 cm
Ingleby Gallery
Dolphin by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattDolphin, 2018 Oil on canvas
61 x 61 cm
Parafin
Volute by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattVolute, 2018 Oil on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm
Parafin
Letter by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattLetter, 2018 Oil on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Parafin
Feather by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattFeather, 2018 Oil on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Parafin
Easter by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattEaster, 2018 Oil on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Parafin
Columba by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattColumba, 2018 Oil on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Parafin
Reversed Canvas by Alison Watt contemporary artwork
Alison WattReversed Canvas, 2017 Oil on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm
Parafin

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Alison Watt, A Shadow on the Blind at Parafin, London
Closed
24 May–13 July 2019 Alison Watt A Shadow on the Blind Parafin, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Alison Watt, The Sun Never Knew How Wonderful It Was at Parafin, London
Closed
17 March–7 May 2016 Alison Watt The Sun Never Knew How Wonderful It Was Parafin, London

Represented By

In Related Press

Alison Watt's Beautiful Meditations on Fabric Related Press Alison Watt's Beautiful Meditations on Fabric AnOther : 24 March 2016

For as long as she can remember, Scottish artist Alison Watt has had two enduring obsessions: paint and drapery. She was introduced to the former as a young girl by her father, also a painter, and hasn't looked back since. "I feel very passionately about paint as a medium because I think it's unique," she tells AnOther.

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In Video & Audio

THE ESSAY with Alison Watt Related Video & Audio THE ESSAY with Alison Watt BBC Radio 3 : 26 October 2012

One of a series of five fifteen minute essays written and delivered by five artists either born or based in Scotland. This series of THE ESSAY demonstrates how we are continually challenged and delighted by artists working today giving an insight into what lies at the heart of contemporary artistic practice, revealing some of the elements that...

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ARTIST TALK - Alison Watt Related Video & Audio ARTIST TALK - Alison Watt Ingleby Gallery : 3 February 2012

Alison Watt in conversations with Colin Wiggins (curator, National Gallery, London) at Ingleby Gallery.

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