Alison Watt, Flexion, 2003

Oil on canvas

Alison Watt (b. 1965 Greenock) Lives and works in Edinburgh.

Flexion is one of a series of paintings made in 2002-3 that were exhibited at the Ingleby Gallery during the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival. This exquisitely painted, seemingly abstract, exploration of form relates to Watt's earlier work - suggestive, sensual paintings of the body and of fabric and drapery - and like these, hints at a human presence or absence. 

The exploration of form in the painting relates to the artist’s interest in the human figure, particularly the female nude. The artist has acknowledged the work of 19th century French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres as an inspiration and in particular his handling of the drapery that surrounds the female form in many of his paintings. This work has both spiritual and sensual qualities and explores both the absence of the figure, but also the presence of the human body, conveying a sense of the traces left by the body on surrounding fabric.

The definition of the term ‘flexion’, the title of this work, is ‘the act of bending a limb, especially a joint between the bones of a limb so that the angle between them is decreased’ and also ‘deviation from a normal or straight course’.Flexion painting

Artist Biography

Born in Greenock in 1965, Alison Watt studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1983 – 1988. In 1987, she won the National Portrait Gallery’s annual award and after this became well known in the late 1980s and early 1990s for her paintings of figures, often female nudes. In 1997, the Fold exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, featured works that had introduced fabric alongside the figures. By the time of Shift, an exhibition of twelve large works at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2000, the canvases depicted only the fabric, exploring the absence of the body, and also its presence, through the idea of the body leaving traces or imprints on surrounding fabric.

In 2003, Watt was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize. In 2004, she exhibited Still, a 12 foot painting in the memorial chapel of Old St Paul’s Church as part of the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, for which she received the A.C.E. award in 2005 for art in a religious space. The work is now on permanent display in the Memorial Chapel of Old St Pauls’ Church on Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh. In 2005, she also took part in the Glenfiddich residency. Her installation Dark Light, supported by a Creative Scotland award, was displayed at the Ingleby Gallery before touring to the Pier Art Centre in Orkney in 2007.

Alison Watt was Associate Artist at The National Gallery in London from 2006 - 2008 which culminated in a new body of work, displayed in the Phantom exhibition at The National Gallery.


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