Carolyn V Watson has given consideration to many things, including the lack of full stop after the V in her name. While the V stands for Veronica, she likes the ambiguity in the use of v as an abbreviation for versus. Word play is a feature of her artwork titles as well. Opening tonight is her first exhibition for BMG Art in Adelaide (27 June 2014), and below is my new essay on her practice to date.
An Organic Mechanic:
Painting and Sculpture by Carolyn V Watson
Carolyn V Watson describes her practice as emerging from an inherent materiality: “I speak through my hands and my making, my response to materials”. The way in which she does this makes for an intriguing aesthetic, its ability to draw the eye, to entice the audience with the strangeness of her created objects, the hybridised state they exist within – neither human nor animal, not alive nor dead – their occupation in a fictional, strange and heightened state in between.
Iwannabeyourfool (2014) is two creatures, united in their interaction, as one looks down and over the other. It is a tender unity with the taller figure resting a claw on the back of the smaller, as though shepherding the less developed creature. They share awkward bodies stitched in fabric, and spindly rods for legs. The main figure is an amalgam of hairless rabbit ears, beady eyes and mottled red and black appears under thick skin, which appears embryonic, immature, an unnatural sort of flesh. Watson describes her practice as akin to a toymaker, suggesting that in her “birthing” of these sculptural creatures she is conferring a degree of empathy or tenderness.
Pinned to the walls in Watson’s studio are images of animals – dead, injured, bloodied, in an operating theatre. She is drawn to these pictures, not for their inherently gory or sad qualities but for the linear interaction that the damage they have suffered, and the bandages, splints, gashes, might make on their bodies. She describes these images as, “a transitional state. In these photographs, that flick past momentarily on the internet, I see these animals anew. Drawing on their impression, I can acknowledge their passing. If there is a deeper meaning I suppose it is in that I get to play God.”
In her drawings and paintings, the two dimensional artworks that are the other intrinsic element of her practice, Watson depicts this visual inspiration more literally. Paintings like Tired of fighting yourself (2014) describe a dog as though from the inside out, the opposite, if you like, of her sculptural practice. In this figurative image, the animal is depicted on a painterly background, emerging from veils of pigment with a body constructed from patches of colour, line and translucence, ghosted and dissected at the artist’s whim, yet given permanence at odds with their fleeting internet presence.
Paintings, for Watson, begin as collages of her “touchstone images”, a mode of compositional construction that allows the expression of her interest in the interaction of humans with animals. Titles add to the visual puzzle she creates, and two- and three-dimensional media allow for a holistic exploration of her interests. She suggested that, “The drawings are brains and nerve endings, the analytical aspect, while sculpture is visceral, bodily, oozing”.
Her art cross-pollinates across media and materials. Its emotional demand is significant, a reflection of Watson’s journey and that of every outsider, an entreaty for love and understanding that may embrace difference.
Louise Martin-Chew, 24 June 2014