Colin Watson a Painter who Captures ”the Otherness” of Morocco
He graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Ulster and has exhibited at the Pyms Gallery London, Jorgensen Fine Arts and the Royal Academy Dublin, One Oxford Street Belfast and other Belfast galleries, the Lawrence Arnott Gallery in 2007, where he is exhibiting again on the 8th June -3rd July 2010.
Colin Watson has particpated in many group exhibitions including The National Portrait Gallery in London, The BP Portrait Prize Exhibiltion, The Royal Hibernian Gallery in Dublin, The Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast
His awards include the Royal Ulster Academy Silver Medal and the Connor Prize . The Don Niccolo d’Caracciolo, the RHA Medal and Award , the De Veres RHA Award, the Royal Ulster Academy Award and the Ireland Fund of Great Britain Annual Arts Award. He has been shortlisted for the BP Travel Award.
His work appears in a number of major collections including the Royal Collection London, HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, The Arts Council for Northern Ireland, The Royal Geographical Society, London, The National Self Portrait Collection of Ireland, The Department of the Environment , Northern Ireland and private collections in the USA, Morocco, UK, Ireland and Spain. He was born in Belfast in 1966 and has visited Morocco frequently.
Yacout Info met him at the Lawrence Arnott Gallery where he is preparing his next exhibition which includes paintings which he completed during the Far Easten tour of HRH the Prince of Wales when he was invited to accompany the Prince.
Yacout Info: What attracts you to Morocco ?
Colin Watson: I have been coming here for the last 25 years . There are many things: the people are very friendly and I have developed tremendous relationships with people over the years. The culture here has always appealed to me since I was a boy and I love the landscape and the cuisine . The architecture and the art and more recently, the light, with the amazing contrast of coming from a Northern European environment and climate to a completely different culture. It has intoxicated me from the first moment that I came here.
Q: Do you think Morocco has influenced your art?
A: I think it has, I am very interested in Islamic art and over the years I have collected pieces , it is the ethos and the traditional nature of the approach and trying to pin down this “otherness” which is Morocco.
Q: You’ ve mentioned the quality of the light here in Marrakech, yet you paint in very subdued colours using perhaps four colours in your palette what is your reason for this?
A: When you are creating a painting you are not trying to recreate a photograph, so you have to think of space and composition , so you are not necessarily replicating the light . You have to work within the confines of thge painting . The paintings in this exhibition are much more colourful than the paintings I used to paint. I choose to use colours which are quite close to each other . It is a painting, not a photograph so you are abstracting things and working within those boundaries.
Q: Do you think of yourself as an Irish painter and do you think you have brought something of Ireland to Morocco?
A: I don’t really think of myself as an Irish painter. I am not interested in Irish painting as such and I have always been drawn to French painting if anything. It’s hard to know how you are influenced by your own roots.
Q: You made a particular study of Poussin and other paintings in the Louvre?
A: Yes, Poussin has been a big influence on me in terms of composition and arrangement and symbolism. He was a master of composition and he was able to create monumental art and still have the accuracy of observation. It’s human but suggests something which is more than human. This is what interested me and of course if you are looking at a Poussin and his compositions you hope that some of his genius will inform and influence your own work. He was an artist of his time but the language of his composition can be applied by artists of today.
Q: Your compositions of groups of people are almost dreamlike and reflective is this part of what you learnt from Poussin and other painters you studied?
A: Yes, I want to create an atmosphere of an eternal space. It is not just a reflection of this day, this minute, it needs to be a work of the imagination. Previously I used models but I found this was a hindrance .
Q: Do you sketch and then work on a painting in your studio?
A: I use sketches and photographs and then work from them.I prefer to work in a studio and not on site. Degas used to say that painting an angling scene outside was more akin to fishing than painting. It is interesting to paint outside as an exercise but I feel I need more time for composition. I need to preserve some distance from the subject so that key elements emerge in the painting.
Q: You know HRH the Prince of Wales and he has bought a number of your paintings?
A: He had seen examples of my work and I was approached by Clarence House to see if I could accompany him on his tour of the Far East , to Indonesia, Brunei and Japan. I gladly accepted and traveled with him. I was able to see unique sights which are not normally seen and I had access to wonderful temples and monuments and I had free range to cover anything I wanted in order to create an artistic record of the places the Prince traveled to. The paintings went on exhibition in London and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall had first choice of the paintings and five of them are now in their collection. This was a wonderful experience and I was very lucky to be part of the tour.The Prince regularly takes artists with him on trips such as this and is a great supporter of the arts and it is a magnificent way to keep a record of the royal tours.We talked each day of the tour about what we had seen and he is very passionate about painting. He of course paints himself.
Q: Your work appears in a number of portrait galleries like the National Portrait Gallery?
A: Yes my paintings appear in a number of collections like the Royal Geographical Society and other collections around the UK and elsewhere. I have been fortunate to have paintings selected by a number of major collections.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I had two exhibitions his year so I have been very busy and I am planning a dual exhibition with an Irish religious painter, Patrick Pye in Dublin who is well known in Ireland for his work on stain glass windows. I may also have an exhibition in Belfast later in the year so it is a busy time. I have always lived in Belfast and that remains my home base and I travel frequently. Belfast is quite apart from the art world so there are fewer distractions. I couldn’t live and work in London. It is good for my work to have a certain isolation from other artists and distractions.
Q: What else attracts you to Morocco?
A: Over the last few years I have become more and more drawn to Sufism . There has been an unbroken tradition in Morocco since the twelfth century. You come here and see that much has changed and that there are many tourists but a moment later you are back to the traditional and the deeply routed living culture. It is one of the few countries in the world where you can tap into an ancient tradition and this draws me to Morocco more than anything. It is a living, continuous ancient tradition. It is like an antidote to the modern world.