Charlotte Watson’s drawing and sculptures are dark voids, teetering between terror and awe.
Since practicing in Melbourne, Watson’s primary method of working has been in non-objective drawing, highlighting abstraction as a language for the internal and unspeakable. Monochromatic materials, chosen for their sublime but historical qualities, draw the viewer into a space that is seductive but psychologically charged; where distorted geographies and obscured landscapes stand in for the unconscious and its volatile role in informing narratives of the self.
Graduating from the University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand) in 2011 with a BFA in Sculpture, Watson is now based in Melbourne, Australia.
Charlotte Watson’s artwork
Interview with Charlotte Watson
How do you describe your work to others?
As ‘artwork that changes a room’
Do you have a preferred medium?
I love drawing, so all of the traditional mediums. But sculpturally I gravitate to mediums that are fragile to handle, have loaded histories, or are not at all designed for the purpose I’ve assigned to them. This usually means I have to respect the material and intervene with it as little as possible.
How do you begin new work?
I write, often for months. At the same time I’ll fill entire workbooks figuring out a work before moving to ‘finished’ pieces.
What attracts you to your subjects?
If something myself makes me uncomfortable and takes me to a place I’d rather not look, then that’s generally what I pursue.
What do you use as reference material?
Books and music, growing up in New Zealand, as well as my dreams and/or nightmares. I love the big ideas in philosophy and psychology and challenging my own perceptions on things.
I only tend to actively seek art out when I need a creative lift between projects. This means I perhaps don’t see as much art as I should but I don’t like filling myself up visually when I’m trying to get something down.
Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
A little of both. I follow my gut but often am conscious of what symbols or themes are occurring from that intuitive process, and where to direct myself within that
What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Definitely black though currently it’s dark blue.
Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I often arrive at the studio, do a 10-15 minute meditation, then make a cup of tea and write for 15-20 minutes. After that, I work.
What’s your favourite music to work to?
Anything from Nick Cave to Arvo Pärt
Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Yes, titles are extremely important as most of my work comes from language.
What’s your favourite part of creating?
Seeing further into myself and seeing what it draws out of others.
What advice would you give to your emerging self?
The art world is not a meritocracy. Make good work anyway.
Also, remember those who held the door open for you in some way and make sure you do the same to those coming behind you.
How do you alleviate the down times?
I’ve been known to do a severe spring-clean of my studio then stay home with my cats and read books for months. After that comes the phase of detesting art and everything to do with it, then eventually I fall back in love and pick up the pencil again. Accepting this cycle, however, is another thing entirely!
What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
The moment I realized that if I couldn’t use my art to express how I felt, then it was pointless to me. It was about then that the language of abstraction took on a greater importance and I began to refine what I want to say with it.
What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Two: Firstly the Guggenheim Collection at the NGV back in 2007. I was a 16 year old from a conservative, semi-rural place and seeing that show affirmed for me that art was more than an end goal of realism and landscapes. Secondly, Lee Mingwei’s show at the Mori Art Museum in 2014, in particular the work called ‘Between Going and Staying’. I walked inside and was instantly split in two. An impeccably simple and emotive work that caught me at my own time of going or staying.
If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
I’d ask Louise Bourgeois if she ever healed her wounds.