Diana Watson

Spice of Life

September 25 - October 9 2010

Art is a complete way of life, never far from my thoughts... seeing beauty all around me - colours, shapes, shadows, nature - and the challenge of putting it on canvas.”  Diana Watson

Now Sydney-based, Diana Watson originally hailed from Perth, WA. She completed her art training there and was encouraged by Robert Juniper to pursue a career as a painter. Sumptuous visual essays, Watson’s works seem governed by the pleasures of the eye. They overwhelm with sensuous reality. Experience gilded with memory, her paintings have previously reflected the rich, warm tones of the Tuscan landscape and culture - a place she calls her second home. Watson’s current body of work however, is not so much about the good life as life keenly observed. 

The thoroughly charming A-List Arrival (detail above) is typical of the works that have earned Watson acknowledgement as one of Australia’s foremost exponents of the still-life genre. It is a finely resolved composition which builds its own quiet drama through formal pictorial arrangements. The folds of the cloth and its undulating border stripe direct the eye into the subject. An integration of still and animated life, the painting is a classical study in black and white tones, accented with the mellow colours of nature’s produce and the finches’ miniscule patches of vermillion. Light falling from an unseen source gently illuminates the soft ripeness of the pears. The pervading mood is one of warm silence, harmony  and contentment.

“Beauty before message” has always been Diana Watson’s artistic maxim, but within her luscious colours and forms we may now also discern subtle references to her ecological concerns. Several of the works allude to the impact of European colonialism on annexed territories. Deliberately employing a style informed by 17th century artistic traditions and early natural history paintings, the works Cry For Me Agentina (pictured above), Your Land Or Mine, History Will Absolve Me and Quid Pro Quo articulate Watson’s awareness of the inter-connectedness of all living things. Ambiguity and allegory suffuse the content in curious juxtapositions. Commanding the foregrounds, jewell-hued parrots seem completely at odds with their grey backdrops. Over smoky horizons the fleets of the Old World are sailing, inexorably, towards the bays of paradise. 

Diana Watson constructs a contemplative space - a moment of stillness grounded in the phenomenal world. The lyric subtlety and pictorial breadth of her imagery invites the viewer to pause and reflect. To that end, she chooses the titles of her paintings with care, “The names are important, I enjoy ‘tongue in cheek’ and ‘twists’ and hope they provide food for conversation”. The exhibition’s title, Spice of Life, is similarly doubled edged. It relates to that which brings fragrance and piquancy to everyday mundanity, but also to that propensity in human nature which will drive us, quite literally, to the ‘ends of the earth’ to procure it. 

A prolific painter, especially considering the wonderful detail and realism of the works, Diana Watson has presented 25 solo exhibitions over the past 13 years. With showings in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the USA, Anthea Polson Art is delighted to host Spice of Life, Watson’s first exhibition in Queensland.


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