By Albert Smith
Originally published on Advocate.com December 04 2010 5:00 AM ET
Ross Watson's career as an artist began 25 years ago in Melbourne, Australia. He has since exhibited in London, Berlin, Sydney, and Los Angeles and participated in group exhibitions, including important surveys of Australian and international art at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Toronto International Art Fair.
He lives in Melbourne with his partner, Stephen Morgan, who is the director of an art gallery dedicated exclusively to Watson's art, whose visitors include collectors such as Sir Elton John.
Recent highlights of Watson's career include his Cologne Gay Games VIII exhibition, which attracted record attendance, and the publication of of Untitled # Ross Watson, which includes a foreword by Mark Henderson, an art historian formerly with the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and an interview by Michael Kirby, Australia's longest-serving High Court judge.The Advocate:Why are you an artist?
From as early as I can remember I have been magnetically drawn to making art. It's an all-consuming passion, and it is very therapeutic dealing with issues which I feel strongly about or have a personal connection with. I'm grateful to everyone who has collected my paintings and photography, which has enabled me to paint full-time for 25 years.
What catches your eye?
Strong role models for gay men, which is one of the reasons I painted Matthew Mitcham and Jake Shears. François Sagat for his international contribution to safe-sex education, in contrast to the Vatican's position on condom use.
How do you choose your subjects?
My art continues to explore various themes, including sexuality and religion, the environment and introduced species, isolation and mentoring, rapidly changing technology and communications. Some of my art references 16th-19th century paintings, which provide another context for the subject I'm dealing with, thereby inviting comparisons and reflection.
How do you describe your work?
Contemporary realism. In my new book I've written about the themes in my art and why I bring certain images together.
What makes a good picture to you?
One which succeeds on a number of levels — well-executed, includes metaphors, and tells us something about the period it was produced.
Who are your favorite artists? And why?
Caravaggio for being a rare revolutionary and changing art forever. Vermeer for his paintings' technique, ambiguity, and intrigue.