“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the f*** you were gonna do anyway.” —Robert Downey Jr.
I have always painted, but I haven’t always taken the advice of Robert Downey Jr. And so I began my career doing something “practical” with my creativity, working as an advertising art director in New York.
Through those years I amassed all sorts of printed ephemera: vintage storybooks; salvaged bingo cards; 70’s Letraset; old typography catalogues; the fortunes from every chinese cookie I ever ate. So when I finally succumbed to the joy of my inner Downey Jr, I had a wealth of material at hand.
I have always loved wallpaper. My childhood bedroom was covered in Laura Ashley. In our bathroom was a wild metallic Florence Broadhurst. My own wallpaper collection started aimlessly, I started gathering old rolls from the 1940’s stuffing them in a cardboard box in the corner of my studio... For me there is an affection in the re-use and re-purposing of things that have been discarded.
The Wallflower series revives these charming old wallpapers and gives them a new voice. We traditionally think of the wallflower as an awkward young girl waiting by the dance floor desperate to be chosen. But beauty is more about the hidden than the revealed. Female forms are cropped as close as the secrets they keep. Seeing a body without the face that goes with it feels voyeuristic and incomplete. Consciously or not, we search for what isn’t there and we want to know more.
The work is about feminine power, but it’s not about sexual power: I wanted to see what happens to feminine identity when you strip away the male gaze. So much of our identities as women are tied to a male perspective of ourselves. This work is an attempt to reclaim femininity as something that can exist without searching for relevance or asking permission.
The work is unashamedly pretty and joyful and connected to nature. It is unapologetic: pretty can be powerful, joy can have depth.
Perhaps this is why the work has been so well received - it connects to something that women can immediately recognise, without explanation.
" The Buddhist expression 'the mind is a painter' speaks about the nature of consciousness. Watts' paintings possess a meditative quality, exhibit contemporary here-and-now values, encapsulate ideas about 'being' and ‘becoming', possess a sense of attachment and detachment, and powerfully encapsulate the qualities of emergence as a state of nowness.
Like meditative chanting, Watts’ paintings evoke mindfulness.
Each artwork has a harmonic and sensory value that parallels the stillness of a garden influenced by Zen tradition. The artist’s repetitive working and re-working of her themes of wallpaper, the female body, flowers, and birds is like a personal mantra.
I have found an awakening in these paintings that I think others will recognise."
Richard Blundell October 2015
Richard Blundell FDIA
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University