Holly Watson | Issue Ten Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work 

I’m originally from London and completed my BA in Fine Art and Visual Culture at UWE in 2017. I took part in the Erasmus program during my second year and lived in Rotterdam for 6 months. I think that's where I really caught the travel bug. I met some amazing people and realised that the art world (and world world) is very large. 

After uni I was invited to take part in the Can Serrat artist residency just outside Barcelona, where again I was surrounded by wonderful people, but also so much warmth and colour. My work after this, which had always been quite dark in subject and appearance, became much more vibrant and open. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot and have spent this past year and a half living in different places around the world, which has had a huge impact on my art.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

Most of my work explores the ways that we treat each other. The relationships that we have with others and ourselves are extremely complex, but for me empathy and understanding lie at the heart of all things. My latest latest series of works made for Art for Advent, ‘Close Enough to Touch’, draws influence from the experiences and relationships that I have built and lost during my time travelling. 

The series explores what can and cannot be controlled both in subject matter and choice of medium. I like having limited control over my art by creating a parameter, but then taking a step back to hand control over to the paint/materials.  I love it when something completely unexpected happens to a piece- you start off with one thing in mind and by the end of the process you're looking at a piece of art you had no idea you were going to make. 

What art do you most identify with? any specific influences or research areas?

It changes quite a lot. When I was studying I was very interested in installation. It’s a fascinating medium because it is so inclusive of the viewer. They have to be part of it or it can’t function as an artwork. 

I love Olafur Elliason’s installations because they can bring people together in such a lovely way. They force you to have this shared experience with strangers, whether that is sitting under a giant sun or walking through a room filled with fog, you have little encounters with people, bringing you together for a moment. And then you leave and probably never see them again!

I’m always interested in making art as inclusive as possible. It’s for everyone, and I hate when people are pushed out or made to feel that they don’t belong in the art world. It only serves to make those doing the pushing feel that they are better than you. I am always interested in art that celebrates inclusion and diversity.

How did you find the Art for Advent project? What was your routine for making?

Moving around a lot makes it difficult to find or be part of an artist community, so I wanted to find something that I could be part of regardless of where I was. For the first half of the project I was in Melbourne working in an ice cream shop. I would get up, spend a couple of hours painting on the porch and then head to work where I ate lots of ice cream and planned my next paintings- it was a very good time in my life! And it was summer in Australia, so painting outside was very inspiring. I’ve found that being in hot places makes me much more productive. 

There were some days where I struggled to find the time to paint. In the middle of December I left Melbourne to move to New Zealand and spent a week in various hostels before finding my own place. Sitting on a bunk bed trying not to spill paint and water while someone jumps around above you is an experience for sure. Having said that, I had some great conversations with people asking about my work and the project, so it’s an experience I wouldn’t change!

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?

I always need biscuits and a cup(s) of tea to start working. After that I’d probably say my jars of water. I have a lot of cups and jars filled with clear  or coloured water in my studio (there have been many accidents).

I’ll sketch out my works in water first and add colour when I’m happy with the shapes. It’s really fun to play with absorbency, but my favourite thing about making my paintings is just watching the pigment explode and travel across the paper when my brush touches the water.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

So now I’m living in Wellington which is BEAUTIFUL and such a creative city . I’ve got a show opening in the next week at BATS Theater which I’m very excited about and will include lots of the pieces I made during Art for Advent!  I’m also working with the Wellington Potters Association on a project to explore and adapt my paintings into ceramics but that is still in its early stages!


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