Carolyn V Watson

June 1, 2016

The evidence of process and a respect for the handmade is an integral component in all of Carolyn V Watson's works. One can feel the maker's energy in them as they embody life, time and the decisions made. At once both intensely personal and universal in implication, her sculptures and drawings seek to question that which truly defines us: our memories, our actions and the artefacts we produce.

"I used to believe my practice was about using animals anthropomorphically, but now realise that I manipulate objects and surfaces to invert the familiar," says the Brisbane-based artist. "It is a process of co-operation, an ongoing dialogue between maker and material. My work is centred upon repetition, the idea of making mistakes, adapting, building, layering," she continues. "Repeated gestures and actions give rise to small alterations that at first seem unnoticeable. Over time, however, they evolve into new forms. Subtle changes lead to new species. In repetition, a lineage can be established."

For Watson, bones, pelts, antlers, timber, linen and doilies are grounded in reality. They are materials that have connotations of mortality, preservation and renewal. The wax and shellac used on the sculptures act as camouflage, encouraging discovery. Great importance is also attributed to the act of stitching for it represents the pulling of disparate histories together.

The recurring motif of the mask introduces a distinctly human aspect to the works and creates "a conduit to an inner awareness". The configuration of ‘growths' on the surface of certain sculptures conjures a wealth of reinterpretations but to Watson they symbolise nature intervening, adaptation and evolution. Like the mask, the ‘growths' are a unifying force. As extensions to pre-existing forms they offer a new reading of the known.

The sense of spatial depth evident in the sculptures also occurs in the linen drawings. Each mark influences what follows, the gestural stroke being as important and potent as the overall image. The use of water-based mixed media - ink, watercolour, pastel primer and charcoal - allows for great flexibility in process. They are materials governed by an inherent fragility and impermanence.

"My works are built from the inside out," explains Watson, "for in order to have a surface a past must exist. Beauty is in the disrupted surface: the accidental, the familiar, the stain, the wrinkled skin. Beauty for me comes in the form of an image or an object that has lived - something that is not pristine, something that carries the weight and pathos of existence."


Carolyn V Watson is currently a tutor of Sculpture and Contemporary Watercolour at the Brisbane Institute of Art. She was awarded $15,000 First Prize in Life Art Worldwide International Award 2013 and won the Peoples Choice Award, The Artist Revealed Christmas Exhibition, APA 2013. Watson has been a Finalist, in a great many art awards including: Marie Ellis Drawing OAM Prize 2015, 2012, 2011 (Honourable Mention), 2010; Lethbridge 10,000 Small Scale Art 2015; Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Prize 2012; John Fries Memorial Art Prize 2012; Wilson Visual Art Award 2012; Prometheus Visual Art Award 2011, 2009; Moreton Bay Regional Art Awards 2D 2011; Moreton Bay Regional Art Awards 3D 2011; Winner Acquisition Prize, Agendo Art Award 2009; Finalist Churchie National Emerging Art Prize 2008; Third Place, Printmaking-Brookfield Art Prize 2007; Finalist, Noosa Regional Art Awards 2006; Highly Commended UQ Art Prize 1998. She is a QCA Alumni.


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