Carolyn V Watson

Carolyn V Watson creates elliptical works that elude recognition. Our eyes search for form in fragments, familiarity in the foreign, yet the Brisbane-based artist ensures that we can never quite settle on a single interpretation. Artist Profile spoke to Watson ahead of her newest exhibition 'tall tales and true'.

The title of your forthcoming exhibition ‘tall tales and true’ alludes to the cryptic clues embedded in fables that can unlock a door into another awareness. Can you elaborate on how this concept manifests in your new works?
From an early age I can remember reading Aesop’s fables, each tale became a suggestion on how to avoid repeating the same actions and cycles. Reading these simple stories became a way to become more self-aware of one’s actions. Cut to a keen interest in modern history and repeated cycles that play out decade after decade. Cut to our current state of information overload, bipartisanship, misdirection and misinterpretation.

My intention for this body of work was to anchor it in the familiar – the readily identifiable, – and to instil each piece with a sincerity of self-awareness. But first there is the sleight of hand and a costume of colour and thread to see through first.

There appears to be a strong dialogue between mortality and fantasy in your work. Is this the case?
I identify my work as occupying the space of the ‘in-between’. There’s a distinct relationship between what has passed and what has never been. Through the choice of materials – bones, doilies, taxidermy, found timber, sheep leather – to the choice of images – vintage photographs, trophy hunts, masks and medical curiosities – it is about finding the life and line in the inanimate. To act as a catalyst for the impossible to occur; to provoke wonder and curiosity.

Your skeletal sculptures appear fossilised in the midst of some ambiguous action, their atrophied limbs on the brink of collapse. What inspired these amorphic creatures?
What prompted the making of these particular sculptures was animal movements and motions in conversation, but they have an interesting lineage. The first of these skeletal structures appeared in 2018 at Penny Contemporary, Hobart. This particular show was about moving away from the overtly figurative and embracing notions of an exotic impossible botany/biology. Put simply, I wanted to create a body of work without heads or faces.

There second stage was to make them life-sized for a group show at Flinders Lane Gallery. This was a chance to test my skills as a maker, and to see if I could create an internal and external landscape on these forms.

The third incarnation of these sculptures appears in my current show at Anthea Polson Art. These creatures have grown a fifth limb and, unlike the previous forms, there is a defined headlike structure that operates as an internal opening. There is also a playfulness in their composition, a twist and turning that I have not previously been able to achieve. The ambiguous action that you have referred to, I see as a being a gesture of curiosity. There is something more that we just can’t see yet.

Visually one may identity a link to the elongated bronze sculptures of Giacometti. Who or what inspires you?
Berlinde De Bruyckere, Clare Morgan, The Chapman Brothers, Juz Kitson, Heather B Swann,
Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, Mark Dion, Bronwyn Oliver, Phillip Guston, James Gleeson, Franz Marc, Clare Morgan, Sommer Roman, Amy Joy Watson, Linde Ivimey, Andrew Wyeth, Mary Mac Queen. Practical special effects from the ‘70s and ‘80s, modern history documentaries and The Supervet.

Your paintings have a Modernist feel to them, with Cubist-esque fragments building up larger forms/creatures. Tell me about your painting process.
The development of the paintings comes from sourcing images/photographs from journals.
These are then formed into a collage. From that collage a number of repeated line drawings are made using tracing paper. From the multiple tracing paper drawings, these are the enlarged and transferred onto panel. Certain areas are blocked out in white and provide a series of steppingstones as to where the piece may go.

Like the sculptures that appear in ‘tall tales and true’, my method is highly intuitive and relies heavily on the relationship between materials and line as a means of guidance. For me there is an echo that remains of the original source material, but through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction, a new translation is built.

Inadvertently, these paintings have developed a sculptural quality – open areas, intersecting lines, patches of a flesh-like surface, suspended, or anchored to its environment.

I’m interested in your choice of titles, such as ‘There’s probably a very good likelihood that that happened’ and ‘Conversational doublespeak’. How do you decide on the titles of your works?
The titles are collected through a variety of avenues – conversations, podcasts, audiobooks, newscasts and documentaries. Sometimes the title will find its place early on and it will help the work evolve, acting a like a mantra through the process. The opposite will also occur, and I’ll cycle through a number of possibilities at the completion of the work, electing a title that is suggestive of the work’s intent. There is an element of fun and play with these choices, a means deflecting the more graphic and sombre elements of each paining.

How do you hope viewers will approach this new series of works?
For me, I hope they question what they see. I hope a relationship is built between the viewer and the work based on a relentless and restless curiosity. In our current climate, we can ill afford to expect answers to be provided without investigation.

Carolyn V Watson: tall tales and true
8 – 23 November 2019
Anthea Polson Art, Main Beach QLD

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