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b. 1945, New Zealand

Denys Watkins Biography

Denys Watkins is a contemporary artist. Born in 1945, he lives in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland. Watkins is a highly respected contemporary artist with a career spanning five decades. In the early stage of his career, Denys was widely regarded as one of Aotearoa's finest printmakers, a media since superseded by painting and watercolour. He was a long serving teacher of 31 years at Elam School of Fine Arts in Tāmaki Makaurau.

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Denys' fresh, distinctive and ingenious abstract paintings show a keen fascination and curiosity about the world. Over his career he has drawn on a wide visual encyclopaedia of cultural references, taking source inspiration from any area deemed relevant or necessary to a particular composition or series. These might include abstractions of coral, billowing mushroom clouds, Hindu monkey gods, the tangled roots of orchid plants, or obscure lyrics from songs. Within each painting, these visual stimuli are carefully worked out until a formal balance is achieved. Denys is not content to rest on compositional laurels, playing with the nuances of both symmetry and asymmetry.

As Francis McWhannell note, "Denys luxuriates in the diverse possibilities of paint: applying velvety blocks of pigment to smooth, clay-coated boards; pouring slippery skins of translucent colour over grainy canvases." His use of colour is particularly adventurous. He pings from a restrained, almost primary palette to one full of complex hues. He can do harmony, but is just as likely to opt for discord to threaten pictorial rupture.

A keen guitarist and avid music fan, his vast and diverse record collection is reflected in the carefully chosen titles of Denys' works and exhibitions. He is a voracious consumer of culture

Quote by Francis McWhannell, 2017

Text courtesy Jhana Millers.

Denys Watkins
featured artworks

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Primette by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting
Denys Watkins Primette, 2016 Acrylic on wood panel
20 x 20 cm
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Volare by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture
Denys Watkins Volare, 2017 Acrylic on wood panel
25 x 20 cm
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Walking back to happiness by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting
Denys Watkins Walking back to happiness, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
120 x 120 cm
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The Great Divide by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting
Denys Watkins The Great Divide, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
120 x 120 cm
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Sugar lake by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture
Denys Watkins Sugar lake, 2016 Acrylic on wood panel
20 x 20 cm
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False gods by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting
Denys Watkins False gods, 2018–2020 Acrylic on canvas
75 x 75 cm
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Keep searching by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture
Denys Watkins Keep searching, 2018 Acrylic on wood panel
30 x 20 cm
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Little Town Flirt by Denys Watkins contemporary artwork painting
Denys Watkins Little Town Flirt, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
40 x 30 cm
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Denys Watkins
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