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 Ruth Watson  (1962 - )

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Lived/Active: New Zealand/Australia      Known for: installation art, mixed media seascape

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Making Maps
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Two Rooms is pleased to present an exhibition by Ruth Watson, her first solo exhibition in Auckland for 16 years. Watson returned to NZ last year after spending 12-years abroad in Berlin, Sydney and Canberra.

For over twenty years now, Watson has worked with cartographic ideas and imagery as a major basis for her work.  From emerging artist projects such as Planetarium at Artspace in 1989 to work made for Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific in 2003, her work has consistently engaged with these concerns, particularly the image of the world.

Watson seeks to present alternative worldviews, often via little known map projections, by engaging with the topic of mapping itself. In her exhibition at Two Rooms, Unsafe Ruth will present a major floor installation constructed from miniature glass balls (the type used for reflection on the roads) along with a related body of drawings that discuss these issues.

In her twelve-year absence from New Zealand Watson’s work was included in several prestigious exhibitions including two Australian Perspecta (national survey) exhibitions, the Tom Sokolowski- curated Lest We Forget, a show of six artists that also included Christian Boltanski and Yasunara Morimura, in New York City, and several shows in Germany including the 1996 major NZ exhibition Cultural Safety: Contemporary Art from New Zealand. Watson has also had over 25 solo exhibitions and was included in the 1992 Sydney Biennale, the 1995 Cheju Korean Biennale, the first Auckland Triennale in 2001, and in 2004 “Telecom Prospect: Recent New Zealand Art”, and two surveys of Australian art: the Sydney-based Australian “Perspecta” in both 1997 and 1999.

Along with the success of Watson’s extensive exhibition history she has been the recipient of several awards, including the Olivia Spencer-Bower Foundation Award in 1992, a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Fellowship in 1993, the international 2005 Ristow Prize in cartographic history for a study of the first map of the world to use the term ‘Terra Australis Incognita’. Watson’s artworks are represented in major public collections in New Zealand, including Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland City Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

Watson has a BFA in Painting from the University of Canterbury (1984), a MVA from Sydney College of the Arts (1999) and a PhD in Fine Arts from the Australian National University, Canberra (2005). She returned to NZ to take up a position as a Lecturer at the Elam School of Fine Arts.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Ruth Watson, New Zealand

Since the mid-eighties Canterbury-born artist Ruth Watson has exhibited throughout New Zealand and internationally, producing a substantial body of artwork stemming from her interest in the histories and processes of cartography.  A number of the artist’s works have only a temporary presence – she has made maps by pouring wine onto carpets, smearing plasticine onto walls, or icing a cake –  the fragility and impermanence of their materials often evokes a sense of the elusiveness, even impossibility of arriving at any singular, authoritative world view.

Watson recently exhibited Au hasard, Unnerved, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2010; Entangled, Te Tuhi, Centre for the Arts, Manakau, 2008; The (re)formed world, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, 2008. Other important exhibitions include Unsafe, Two Rooms, Auckland, 2007; Telecom Prospect, Wellington, 2004; Paradise Now?: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, Asia Society Museum, New York, 2004; The World Over, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1996; and The Boundary Rider, 9th Sydney Biennale, 1992.

Site is a crucial element to many of the artist’s works; environment and experience play an intrinsic role in the planning of her works of art. Watson attempts to transform the manner in which society identifies and defines experiential spaces. Watson’s 12-metre map of the universe, titled Between Light and Dark Matters, was installed in one of the ruined observatories outside Canberra in an area devastated by the 2003 bush fires. Between Light and Dark Matters carries a particular poignancy because, although installed the Yale-Columbia Observatory, a place established to ‘view the heavens’, the physical reality of the site was, at the time, completely incapacitated.


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