This exhibition is the first full exploration of a theme and setting Watts has painted for a number of years, the paperbark swamp. It is a contemporary retelling of a genre that ghosts the Australian imagination: the swamp, the billabong, and waterlillied lagoons. No doubt the subject has interested artists from Sydney Long to Sidney Nolan, from Arthur Boyd to Daniel Boyd, for its fantastical and moody quality, of ever shifting ground.
These paintings are a contemporary mash up of many sources from nineties fashion to 19th century dryads. Having focused on masculinities for his last few shows Watts has collaborated with his friends Camille Klose and Elle Charalambu, to plot tableaux of care and attention in the swamp. Most of the work is set in the artificial paperbark wetlands in Centennial Park, where the group re-enacted scenes from art history and remade them. The peeling paperbark is a perfect motif for Watts’s signature layered style. The works equivocate between high seriousness and farce, the classical and the everyday, the beautiful and the muddy.
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