Born in Sunderland in 1962, Gavin Watson lives and works in rural Northumberland. His paintings are inspired by and firmly rooted in this rich and ancient region.
Frequently referred to as the cradle of Christianity in Britain, Northumberland has been paradoxically characterised throughout its history by both spirituality and terrible violence, seeing the rise of saints alongside the arrival of invaders by land and sea. An ambiguous borderland fluctuating between Scotland and England, and often lacking the royal protection of either, it was subject to long periods of lawlessness, and preyed upon by reivers from both sides of the border. This turbulent past is evident in its landscape, in the great castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh, and Dunstaburgh, and in the fortified tower houses which can still be seen in many villages, including Gavin’s own. Known as Bastle houses, these thick-walled dwellings provided shelter not only for their owners, who would retreat to an upper storey reached only by ladders, but also for the animals upon which their livelihood and survival depended, safely ensconced within the lower floor.
This image of livestock enclosed within a protective yet alien domestic setting has inspired this series, Flock & Stock, in which Gavin explores the relationship between human and animal, and the internal and external worlds which we share. From the cantering horse transformed in a child’s imagination into a mystical unicorn to the wobbly ceramic ducks which decorated his grandmother’s living room (and so many English homes), these playful yet multi-layered paintings perfectly capture the essence of both beast and man.
Previously represented by Cricket Hill Gallery, New York, this is the first exhibition of Gavin’s work in the UK for over 20 years.