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The Art Five, Issue 16 with Artist Eleanor May Watson

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

'The Doors No Longer Hang True 2', 2020, watercolour and gouache on paper, 148 x111 cm. Right, Eleanor May Watson. Photo by Agne Rita

EMW: On reflection it feels quite fortuitous timing to have shown digitally earlier and physically later in the year.

My most recent paintings are more personal. I have felt vulnerable showing them as the stakes of success or failure (whatever that means) is higher. ‘This is Where We Meet’ gave me the opportunity to see some new paintings alongside artists whose work I really admire. Whilst also remaining in semi-hibernation. The 3D scan was a brilliant opportunity to share the exhibition at an otherwise blank time. A stroke of genius by Tim Patrick.

The work for the Brocket Gallery show was a continuation of that work. I wanted to push on and take more risks. Working across many canvases at a time. I had an enormous amount of energy fuelled by the previous show and I worked right up to the deadline, only stopping to let things dry. The show was hung by the curators Lizzie Glendinning and Mollie Barnes so when I turned up it was quite amazing to see them in that context.

I hadn’t made up my mind about any of it, which made spending time in the show really rewarding. The curation of mine and Tanaka Mazivanhanga’s work was so curious as to provide continual points of convergences but also contrast. I have taken a lot away with me from both experiences.

Painting by Eleanor May Watson
'Among Some Talk of You and Me', oil on canvas, 90 x 110 cm, 2021. Included in 'Un-veiled' at Brocket Gallery. Photo by Agne Rita.

EMW: It feels more like a complete preoccupation - I find endless questions to keep myself occupied whilst creating the work. That has to be the most important element - curiosity and an inability to express it otherwise. Somehow, figures don’t fit into this. They are too expressive, or perhaps dogmatic in a scene. They dictate action, and response and close down my questioning too quickly.

Although they are of domestic spaces, I don’t think my paintings have anything to do with the everyday, the quality of light enhances this feeling.

Oil paintings by Eleanor May Watson
'The Doors No Longer Hang True', 2020, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm. Right, 'Corners of Evening', oil on canvas,125 x 85 cm. Photo by Agne Rita.
Eleanor May Watson in her studio. Photo by Michael Dillon.

EMW: A year spent drawing from observation gave me a formal facility in drawing, from which all my paintings are built. But most importantly, drawing became an unconscious part of my practice and fundamentally changed the way I look at things.

The Drawing Year is a completely unique opportunity to question the function of drawing and your relationship to it. I would love to do it again at some point - but I guess that would be a bit unfair. I continue to feel really grateful for that time.


EMW: It was during last Spring’s lockdown that my work moved towards greater abstraction and greater expression. In colour, marks and materiality. This is linked to a moment in my artistic life that the stakes felt both higher and at the same time non-existent. As the world closed down it felt as though it was unlikely anyone would see my work soon. But also for personal reasons making work which was honest, and full of love felt vitally important.

I began by working on tiny watercolours. It was a relatively unknown medium to me, which gave me a new found sense of discovery in making. I shifted my focus towards process, allowing for more of an intuitive response at every stage.

When I was able to return to the studio I wanted to translate some of this into making larger works on paper and oil paintings. An impossible task, but rather than try and recreate the qualities of small watercolours I tried to recreate that sense of discovery. Working across different mediums reminds me to keep challenging my habits. They all inform one another.

I am happiest in the studio when I feel surprised by what I am making. It feels increasingly important to how I approach painting that they evolve in time. Each piece could be a completely different painting if I had made it on another day.

'Low, Near and Tenderly', 2021, oil on canvas, 85 x125 cm. Photo by Agne Rita

EMW: I am so thrilled to be showing alongside this group of painters, and particularly Nelson and Alex; whose patience and perseverance with a young me made all the difference.

I would probably tell my younger self to take a deep breath and slow down. To take my time to find out who I was and say yes to fewer ‘opportunities’. Ultimately, I didn’t really know how to be with myself in lots of ways.

However, I also know that I wouldn’t be me now without having been me then, so perhaps time travel is ultimately a nightmare scenario. This past year has been the first time I can confidently say I love my work. Not for how it is perceived by other people but how I feel when I am making it. Obviously this doesn’t count for every single day in the studio, but more often than not, I am fully occupied and present.

Oil painting by Eleanor May Watson
'All Night in the Next Room', 2021, oil on canvas, 150 x 130 cm. Photo by Agne Rita

Thank you to Eleanor May Watson for participating in The Art Five, Issue 16.


Ambrosia, An online exhibition featuring the work of a group of emerging artists. Fundraising for Mermaids, a charity that supports gender diversity.

The Art of Painting, group exhibition featuring 18 contemporary artists, 5 - 8 August, Copeland Gallery, Peckham.

Private View 6 August, 12 - 11 pm


Contemporary artist Eleanor May Watson lives and works in London. Watson works primarily in oil paint, watercolour and monotype printmaking. Her recent paintings, monotypes and mixed-media pieces capture moments of light passing across objects within interiors and domestic scenes. Eleanor May Watson studied for a Masters in Fine Art, City and Guilds of London Art School (Distinction) in 2018-19 after completing The Drawing Year, The Royal Drawing School in 2015 -16, and a BA Fine Art Painting (First Class Honours) at Wimbledon College of Art, 2009 -12. Recent residencies include ACS City and Guilds of London Art School Studio Prize, 2019, Slaughterhaus Print Prize, 2019 , The Royal Drawing School Dumfries House Residency, 2018. Her work is included in public collections including Dumfries House Collection, Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award, University of the Arts London.

All images courtesy of The Artist unless otherwise credited.


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