. . . AND THE MATERIAL GIRL
She made her name painting the
Queen Mum, but you'll find no
one - regal or otherwise - in her
latest work. For ALISON WATT it's
fabric all the way.
SHE MADE HER NAME WHILE STILL AT art school. advertised for models in The List and had her work shown to Madonna. ()n a cold. wet Monday morning in Iidinburgh. I meet Alison Watt for a coffee. The publicity shots invariany show Watt dressed entirely in white. like a personiﬁcation of her own painting. Fully clad in black. she
destroys my preconceived image of
The Greenock-born artist is about to become the second youngest living female artist to get a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. But then Watt has always been one of the lucky ones. While still a student at Glasgow School of Art. Watt entered various painting competitions out of pure financial necessity. With her efforts paying off at the tender age of twenty. Watt scooped the annual portrait award of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Her famous. yet controversial portrait of the Queen Mother with tea cup not only propelled her into the public arena. but set a precedent for a series of awards to follow.
The painting of the Queen Mother, however. sits as a one-off. having very little to do with what the artist has done before or since. Watt is a classicist, painting figures. often female nudes, which draw on the rich traditions of 19th century painters, notably the French artist Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres ( l780—l867). a leading ﬁgure in the Neo-Classical tradition. Her father, also a painter. gave Watt an early exposure to art. which no doubt has influenced and shaped her unique style.
‘I remember seeing Ingres’ work in the National Gallery as a child and a retrospective of Francis Bacon‘s work when I was about ten.‘ says Watt, chatty and amiable. ‘You can never
'You can never quite recreate that first experience of seeing work like that; it's a
bit like love'
quite recreate that first experience of seeing work like that. It leaves such an impression and you spend your whole life trying to get that back, it’s a bit like love.‘
In her successful solo exhibition Fold at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery in I997, Watt’s sensuous paintings took their inspiration directly from Ingres. But here Watt pulled apart the 19th century composition, separating the ﬁgure from the fabric. In the commissioned diptychs central to the show, one half of the canvas was taken up with the female form, the other by the multiple pleats of the drapery.
Three years on, Watt’s eagerly awaited new works in Shift herald a change in subject matter. Nudes are out, fabric is in. ‘The very last painting I made for the Fruitmarket show was a single fabric piece,’ explains Watt. ‘To my mind that was the ﬁrst piece of the>
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