Eleanor Watson reflects on found photographs of manmade spaces and re-tells them in paint; hoarding aspirational domestic interiors and gardens which are part of a collective imagery of common desires. What is immediately familiar and recognisable is left uncertain by the flattened rendering of the objects and the incongruous use of colour. The inhabitants are absent; neither anticipated nor unimaginable. Empty of characters, the spaces tell disjointed stories.
Watson’s recent work contains a heightened sense of drama, the colours are uncomfortable and the contrasts are greater. The canvases are heavy with information and description, at times reminiscent of passages from a Gothic novel and at others a sci-fi thriller. Watson’s work is informed greatly by the tradition of domestic interior painting. Her references range from early Roman Frescoes, to the Dutch Golden Age, late 19th Century, early 20th Century and present day. Watson completed her BA in Fine Art Painting in 2012 at Wimbledon College of Art. Her solo exhibition In The First Place took place at The Foundry Gallery in 2013. She has also shown at the South Bank Centre, Mall Galleries, GX Gallery and Futuremap. She was runner up in the 2013 Futuremap Prize, Jonathan Vickers Award in 2012 and Prunella Clough Painting Prize in 2011, and won the Hans Brinker Budget Trophy Award in 2011.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
I reflect on photos of manmade spaces and re-tell them in paint; hoarding aspirational domestic interiors and gardens which are part of a collective imagery of common desires. What is immediately familiar and recognisable is left uncertain by the flattened rendering of the objects and the incongruous use of colour.
Largely contemplative, they provide a space to explore visually and mentally. There is an undercurrent of uncertainty which I hope questions the balance. My more recent work has a heightened sense of drama; the colours are uncomfortable and the contrasts are greater. It’s important that I don’t know the spaces and have never been there because I am free to re-create and rebuild; excluding and including details as the painting progresses. I encourage a literary feeling of description. Clues as to whose story is being told are everywhere, although most questions are left unanswered.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
I am looking forward to exhibiting alongside some very talented artists, with a common interest in art historical references.
Which artists are you most inspired by?
There are so many. When it comes to ‘Old Masters’ I am particularly entranced by Piero Della Francesca, and Vermeer. I have always been drawn to quiet paintings, with a very present but unassuming drama. The Nabis and Matisse are also hugely important to me for their depiction of domestic scenes. Hurvin Anderson, Karen Kalimnik and Mamma Andersson, are amongst the contemporary painters I adore; I think they explore figurative painting with a kind of early modernist zeal.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I grew up in a beautiful place in West Sussex with my fantastic and hugely supportive parents and older brother. I went to an all-girls school in ‘Virgin valley’ in Surrey with an amazing art department, completed my foundation at Chelsea and did a brilliant BA at Wimbledon.
What inspired you to become an artist?
All jobs seemed obscure to me at school, with the exception of being a teacher. I always loved art lessons and spent a lot of time colouring in way back when. I met an artist at 16 and realised it really could be a job, and it became my ambition to paint every day. So far it’s going well, fingers and toes crossed.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I would be thinking ‘what if’ a lot probably.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I was hugely fortunate to be given a solo show at The Foundry Gallery in Chelsea in November last year. I am also in the RA summer show this year. And being included in Young Masters is pretty great too.
What are your plans for the future?
Paint as much as I can.