When you create your artwork, do you focus more on the image or the emotion?
I don’t think you can separate the two – the emotions in a piece of artwork are intrinsic properties of that piece of artwork. For example, when a musician plays a sad song the quality of sadness is in the music itself, not separate from it – it’s in the arrangement of notes and melody etc. I think it’s the same with visual artwork – the emotion is one of the properties of the image.
Why figurative work? Is there a specific influence or development behind the theme?
I spent several years doing non-figurative work using collage and assemblage (http://www.lazaruscorporation.co.uk/artists/paul-watson/assemblage-and-collage). Although some of the elements of those assemblages/collages were figurative images (usually photographs or drawings of mine), the process of creating these assemblages/collages was focused on materials, textures, and composition. I felt they had run their course and wanted to try something different, and my current focus on figurative work came out of my continued practice of life-drawing.
When abstract art emerged in the 20th century it was shocking and confrontational, but something happened
over the past thirty years and now every corporate board room has a piece of abstract art hanging in it, and the big hotel chains default to hanging a couple of abstract
paintings in every guest room. It’s become corporate wallpaper – very non-confrontational, bland, and purely decorative. Figurative work is far more challenging and thought-provoking at the mom
ent (which is why you don’t find much of it in corporate boardrooms or hotel chains, because art in those locations is meant to be as banal as possible).
As for the theme, I’ve been working around ideas of myth and folklore. This came out of a couple of isolated projects I did on the Erinyes/Furies and on Medea. Having worked a bit on these Ancient Greek myths I moved onto to British and Irish myth, which coincided with a growing interest in some quarters in the overlap of nature/wilderness, myth, folklore and horror (Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England”, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Adam Scovell’s short Super8 films, the very niche musical sub-genre of Spook-Folk inhabited by the likes of “The Hare and The Moon” (https://soundcloud.com/thehareandthemoon), and a new appreciation for old 1970s TV series such as “The Children of the Stones” and “The Owl Service”) some of which was summarised in Robert Macfarlane’s “Th
e eeriness of the English countryside” piece published in the Guardian earlier this year (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/10/eeriness-english-countryside-robert-macfarlane).
This growing wilderness-myth-folk-horror zeitgeist is a broad church of interests, and my angle on it is particularly focused around myth and folk-horror. After years of working in a fairly isolated manner it’s very refreshing to be making work which seems to chime with what a lot of other people are doing, but without being part of some very tightly-defined clique – I follow a lot of people on Twitter who are drawing ideas from the same broad area of interests, and it feels like a mutually-supportive yet very loosely-aligned crowd of people who are all on similar wavelengths.
What is your biggest fear?
Having spent some years in the past living hand-to-mouth, I guess that returning to that state of affairs would be my biggest fear, especially under the current government.
If you could go back in time to tell yourself one thing, to what time would you go back to and what would you tell yourself?
I’d probably have a long list of things to say to myself and times in my life to say them! I’d probably just leave myself notes every couple of years saying “it’s fine – just keep doing what you’re doing”.
A penguin wearing a top hat walks into the room, why is he there and what does he say?
Sounds like The Penguin from Batman! So I guess he’d be planning to rob a bank or some other fiendish plan.
What are you currently working on and what can we expect to see next?
I’ve spent today doing some life drawing (I’m a bit out of practice – if you stop drawing for more than a week then you start losing the knack!), but my next major project is a series of photographs base
d around a mask I’m working on made out of moss. I’ll probably do some drawings and lino-prints on the same subject.