Bruce Watson


CAAF Residency st[art]@art central, May – JuneĀ 2013




My work is an unsentimental, often unflattering, but nevertheless tender, exploration of the nude; it is a counter to what I see as the body’s misappropriation by capitalist interests. In a consumer culture, ‘body image’ has, quite literally, become the nearly exclusive purview of the advertising and entertainment industries whose airbrushing, photo-manipulation , emphasis on youth and impossibly slim body types has alienated us from the very thing with which we are most intimate.

My work tends to be bold, quickly executed and emotionally charged. The marks I make, the rhythm of my brush or charcoal, the colours I choose, reveal my own struggles with body image and health. My work is a non-judgemental, but fraught conversation between artist and model.

Painting from live models is a cataloguing of universal human experience; each model brings his or her own vulnerability, trauma, fear, and often courage to the studio, but these experiences are central to the experience of “embodiment” in the 21st century. In this sense, the practice of figurative art – albeit well-trodden terrain – is more relevant now than it ever has been.

We are preoccupied by our flesh: we are anxious about the fact of embodiment, and always have been. Humanity’s myths, religions, and philosophies betray a deep antipathy towards the flesh. As embodied beings, we are essentially at war with ourselves. We are no less or more at war now than our ancient ancestors were, though the nature of our anxiety has changed: we are no longer so concerned, as our Christian ancestors were, that our bodies corrupt our souls; instead, we grapple with how our bodies fail us in the pursuit of a ‘good’ life: we are forever too old, too fat, too ugly. The message is carried now by advertisers rather than priests, but the message is much the same: our flesh oppresses us. Our flesh is the enemy.

The experience of embodiment, then, seems untenable. The conflict between the body and whatever it is that remains – the soul, consciousness – is resolved in most belief systems only through death; however, the ancient Romans and Greeks told tales in which the body responds to conflict by undergoing radical change. When enough pressure is applied, when taboos have been broken, when boundaries are violated, the body metamorphoses. I see these myths, therefore, as a response to the fundamental problem of embodiment that engages us still to this day.

I will begin my residency with an exploration of the Minotaur whose hybrid form represents in my work the conflicted nature of being.