Is it possible to be ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’ at the same time? Harry Watson is someone who achieves this.
Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History presents a new series of Harry Watson’s carved works in the exhibition ‘Harry Watson – Modern Primitives’ which opens to the public on Friday September 27th at 5.30pm. All welcome. Guest Speaker at the Opening will be fellow artist, Ian Chapman.
Masterton-based, Harry Watson is beloved here in the Wairarapa. He is also highly regarded in the local and national art world. His view of ‘art’ is large and his participation equally so.
Born in 1965, the largely self-taught artist has been a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards, has exhibited at several museums such as Aratoi and The Dowse, has been represented by leading galleries like Milford and Page Blackie, has been a tutor at King Street Artworks for more than 20 years, worked in set design for Stagecraft and Bats Theatre in the 1980s, and his art is held in several private and public collections, including Aratoi’s.
Wairarapa folk might recall that he led an art auction at Aratoi for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake appeal.
Aratoi Director Susanna Shadbolt said, “Harry Watson’s painted and sculptured fables in this new series speak of the culture clashes in Aotearoa New Zealand. His carvings reclaim, re-create, and subvert the narrative of our country’s history – colonial and post-colonial – often with tongue in cheek.”
About the title, ‘Modern Primitives’, Harry Watson says, "We may regard ourselves as sophisticated and modern, but we retain our lizard brain and our base instincts and desires."
As is the case for many artists, the sense of time changes when at work in the studio. "When I go into the workshop it's as though I go into the past using old methods to dwell on old times. It's an escape space from the reality of modern life, a place where things are simple and don't have to be real."
Harry prefers to use old tools, or ones that he's worked with for a long time: "I find it interesting to know that a nice sharp chisel has been cutting through wood longer than I've been alive."
Harry’s art is also represented in Aratoi’s current 50th anniversary exhibition of more than 100 works in the collection. The painted oak work ‘Cape Turn and be Damned’ is titled after a nickname for Mātakitaki-a-Kupe or Cape Palliser: some 20 shipwrecks were recorded there in the 1800s. The 2013 work was commissioned by Friends of Aratoi. Harry also appears – as does Robin White - in an episode of the 2001-02 TVNZ series ‘The Big Art Trip’ that is screening in the gallery until November 10th.
Other exhibitions and events: