In a career spanning over twenty years, Ruth Watson has worked with maps and map imagery as a major basis for her work, with a keen interest in showing us alternate ways of seeing our world. Presenting a new series of work, Platforms, for her exhibition upstairs at Two Rooms, Ruth Watson revisits another longstanding interest of hers, the game. The first game boards she made appeared in 1988 – 1992 and her Tour of New Zealand is now in the collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Painted in a variety of media, including acrylic and enamel, these boards candidly reproduced the game’s own imagery in a re-presentation reminiscent of Pop Art.
The new works are painted in multiple layers of encaustic. Watson has always shown a strong interest in surface and materials and she has used salt, acrylic, shopping bags, glass beads, gold chocolate wrapping paper, and even detergent in a variety of wall based or sculptural works. She began using encaustic as an undergraduate in the early 1980s and has retained an interest in its ability to embed information at different depths. Watson’s application alludes to the possibility of scraping away layers to reveal a starting point.
Since the 80s the game board has now largely disappeared into cyber space and traditional game boards have become somewhat obsolete, but for Platforms, she has used source material readily available through newspapers and magazines, in this case, Sudoku. The basic grid format with a limited palette make a perfect starting point for a minimalist painting, with the blank squares presenting an invitation to participate in the work, make choices, and engage with what she calls “a history of possibilities”. These boards serve as a metaphor for the decision making process in making a painting.
Watson has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the USA. Major exhibitions include Paradise Now? Asia Society Museum, New York, 2004 and The World Over, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1996. She has also been included in two Australian survey exhibitions, Living Here Now: Art and Politics, 1999 and Between Art and Nature, 1997, and the 9th Sydney Biennale, The Boundary Rider, 1992.
Most recently Watson exhibited her installations: Unsafe, 2007, at Two Rooms; Entangled, 2008 at Te Tuhi, Centre for the Arts, Manakau; zoomandscale, 2008, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
Ruth Watson will deliver a paper at the 23rd International Conference for the History of Cartography in Copenhagen, 11-17 July, and will feature in a new publication Map As Art: The Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009)