I was born in the late 70’s in the regional NSW, and I am the youngest of four.
Largely self-taught, I anchor my practice in a place between the natural and the artificial.
It is the instability and the obscure, a place where the familiar enters a state of the in-between
As a maker that works through surface and form, what guides my intent is that I find comfort and beauty in the unknown
“Carolyn’s work blends multiple associations and meanings in a manner that makes them simultaneously familiar and foreign. Although her work is an open-ended encounter, one possible reading of her work is that the drawings highlight the existence of life’s processes of decay (the fading and removing of specific areas of the subject) whereas her sculptures are the birth of something new (constructing and refiguring sculptural forms). Carolyn’s handcrafted sculptures draw inspiration from the peculiar and the imagined. These fictional pieces provide an intimate experience for the audience, serving as a portal into an alternate world, where one can interact with strange beings, organic and log-like forms. Which in turn, begins to address evident elements of memento mori, abstraction and the abject. By using remnants such as wire, bone, leather, wood, thread, and fabric to create her pieces, the interplay between the real and the artificial becomes a crucial aspect These creatures are neither animal, botanical nor human but instead occupy a state of the in-between.
Carolyn completed her studies at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in the late nineties. In 2005, she re-established her studio practice. Since then Carolyn has exhibited in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. In 2015 she was officially by invited by Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery develop a site-specific body of work to be exhibited in BRAG’s Gallery Two. Carolyn, has received multiple awards for both her sculpture and drawings and in 2013 she secured a first prize of $15,000 at the inaugural Life Art Worldwide International. She is a multi-time finalist in national awards including the Morton Bay Regional Art Awards, Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award, Marie Ellis Prize for Drawing, the John Fries Memorial Prize and the Churchie National Emerging Art Prize.” - Dr Julie Rees
modifiedwonder – Exhibition Essay
she's learning the spaces she leaves have their own things to say
and she's trying to sing just enough so that the air around her moves
and make music like mercy that gives what it is and has nothing to prove
Life presents us with many realities, some of which we might struggle to reconcile. There are experiences we would rather not endure and situations we would prefer to avoid. There are mindsets we find confronting, and histories—both personal and communal—that now rest uneasy. As emotional states, these sensations are a necessary side effect of being human, but it is how we rebuild ourselves in the face of these feelings that gives us our humanity.
This reconstruction of self has been central to Carolyn V Watson’s practice for almost two decades. As a young art student grappling with the hangovers of her upbringing, Watson sought to disseminate her past through a rigorous painting and drawing practice. Recognising early on that incorporating three-dimensionality would develop both her art processes and her personal examinations, Watson gravitated towards the feminine grotesque aesthetic embraced by Australian sculptors Patricia Piccinini, Linde Ivimey and Juz Kitson, and the oddly composed therapy dolls of German artist Hans Belmer. Where working two-dimensionally ensured immediacy of message, the expansion of materiality and physicality provided by sculpture allowed more opaque motivations to be considered. Labour-intensive techniques including hand stitching, moulding and assembling enabled greater depth of focus and more fully realised ruminations, while materials such as bone, wax, leather and rabbit pelts gave Watson’s work the emotional potency she sought. The resulting creatures—anthropomorphic beings with beseeching gazes and tentatively curious postures—were fleshy in appearance but hardened to touch. Given titles that read like little poems (allmygodsarewithme, hidinginplainsight, breathturnedblank) the works felt confrontingly raw, yet exuded a vulnerability that enchanted audiences.
More than a decade on and Watson’s current work shows the private and professional transformation that has taken place. modifiedwonder has provided the opportunity to redefine her practice. Though still intrinsically linked to the self, it is much more about the sheer joy of experimentation and celebration of materiality. Existential angst has given away to consideration, while the deliberate erasure of recognisable features has led to a renewed focus on surface, repetition and connections between unfamiliar forms. Unidentifiable as either animal or mineral, the sculptures no longer seek, nor are capable, of engagement with the audience. The works are riskier, their resolution more certain.
The drawings too have undergone metamorphosis, edging closer to the sculptural with a move from linen to board, and interplay between line, tonality and absence.
Resembling fragmented journal entries and misremembered anthropology studies, they provide an anatomical view of the sculpture’s supportive underbelly while also taking viewers further into her most delicate contemplations. Rarely self-contained, the drawings come together like a puzzle to provide an overall map of Watson’s practice, inspirations and her motivations.
Watson’s fantastical hybrids now appear content to exist as improbable botany; a series of exotic marvels indifferent to the curiosity they elicit.
Born in regional NSW, Carolyn V Watson is a multi-award-winning artist whose work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout Australia. In 2017 she won the prestigious Shilliam Award Frank Lambert Memorial Prize at the Brisbane Sculpture Festival and was invited to exhibit at the internationally-regarded World Science Festival, Brisbane. She is a seven-time finalist in the Moreton Bay Regional Art Awards, a six-time finalist in the Marie Ellis OAM Prize for Drawing (Honourable Mention, 2011), and was selected for the 2012 John Fries Memorial Prize and the 2008 Churchie Emerging Art Prize. In 2015, her solo exhibition allgloryisfleeting(memoryandhand) was presented at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, resulting in an Artist in Residence with St Luke’s Anglican College, Bundaberg in 2016. Her work is held in public and private collections in Australia and internationally.
Essay by Carrie McCarthy - Cultural Flanerie
Master of Museum Studies, University of Queensland
Bachelor of Communications majoring in Journalism, Griffith University