Five questions to Alison Gibbons Watt

Five questions to Alison Gibbons Watt

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Alison Gibbons Watt is a British artist who has had her studio in Newport, Rhode Island, USA for the past three years following a move from New York City. An award winning artist, she grew up in Helensburgh on the West Coast of Scotland and gained her BA Honors with distinction from Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, following this with a Masters in European Fine Art in Barcelona. Alison has exhibited in galleries nationally and internationally, most notably in New York, London, Edinburgh and Barcelona.How did you get into art?

I always found a sense of escapism through painting which started from really young. A lot of time was spent indoors growing up on the west coast of Scotland where it rained a lot and so creating worlds out of paint gave me freedom to explore. The deep tones of the Scottish landscape and the strong design aesthetic coming out of Glasgow had a strong influence on me.

How would you describe your style? What makes your art special?

I create bold statements on canvas through color and form which represent the raw emotion experienced in a single moment from memory. They are abstract self portraits in which I remember the visceral environment of a memory and I build each composition in response to this context. My recent body of work “The Shape of Light’ is a series of paintings looking at memory and which formed my latest solo show in Newport, Rhode Island.

Each painting is a snapshot of time which remembers the tiny details of a moment and translates this mood through shape and colour to remember how it felt to be in the present at that time. When revisiting events in the past details such as faces lose their form yet colours, scents, words and feelings remain in high definition. My paintings are a form of escapism back to a chapter from my own story which has lasted the distance of time. Through the use of colour and form I depict the mood of a moment as it was felt. The tone of light in the forest, the colour and feel of a coat I was wearing, the scent of sun on my skin, morning light reflected on the wall, a phrase of words spoken by chance can all immediately have the power to transport us back to a moment in time.

Living in a digitally saturated age I felt that it was important to translate my memories through paint and to celebrate the un photographed moments which have lasted the distance of time and helped shape who I am. Every painting has a geographical location and date alongside it’s title thereby creating an abstract postcard and an authentic souvenir from my life. 

How do you go about developing your work?

I let an idea sit with me for a while and let it build momentum before starting a new series of paintings. I paint in my imagination whilst away from the studio perhaps whilst I am out walking in nature and formulate the compositions. Half the work is already done before any paint is applied to the canvas. Often an idea is triggered by a memory of an event which I had a strong emotional connection to. I try to capture the feeling of a precise moment in time through the composure and colour palette of each painting. In the process of making each work I close my eyes and take myself back to a moment in time which has stayed with me and I consider the sensory environment of each scene. I make a list of all the details that I can remember no matter how small or inconsequential. These serve as reminders to who I was back in this time and how it felt to be in the moment.

I will experiment with new techniques within paint and try to explore new ways of adding depth and surface quality in smaller canvasses before beginning a new larger work. I make many drawings which feel like a form of meditation before starting any new large piece. This creates a rhythm and creates an energy which I then translate into a sketch on the larger canvas. This provides the skeleton to the work which then will alter and built as the composition takes shape through placing each element in connection to each other building relationships though colour and negative space.

Who or what influences you? 

I am always observing and taking photos of scenes that catch my attention such as sunlight cast in dynamic shapes on the wall or flickering softly through the shadow of leaves, surprising surface texture on walks through the city or accidental sculptures formed by discarded objects on the street. I collect libraries of surface content to refer to and consider at a later time. I am mostly interested in the contrast of unexpected colour where artificial bright acid pops of colour meet tonal neutrals or natural surroundings. I also draw all the time and find a form of meditation in doing this. Drawing is central to my work as every canvas begins with it’s skeleton phase of pencil drawing. I draw from intuition and through this I release an inner energy, creating complex layered drawings with a loose repetitive style that hints at the figure.

I have many artists and references who inspire me including The Memphis Design Style, Eva Hesse, Matisse, Jessica Stockholder, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase to name a few.

What are you planning to do next?

In October this year I will be presenting a series of large scale paintings in a solo exhibition within the atmospheric IRYS Boat Restoration Hall in Newport Rhode Island as part of the Pudding Stone Arts festival. The paintings will be exhibited during a classical music performance arranged for String Quartet playing Phillip Glass and music relating to water including Chopin's raindrop prelude. The paintings are a new series of work looking at the movement of water and considering the flux of life in relation to repetition and pattern.Instagram