Flock and Stock
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.
Dogs bring joy to our lives, offer companionship and protection, and make a house a home. There can be few greater pleasures in life than returning home to the exuberant greeting of an affectionate pooch. While cats are sometimes accused of aloofness and inscrutability, a dog’s delight is always plain to see in the furious wagging of a tail. Yet for all this easy openness, one mystery remains: just what do our dogs do all day, alone at home?
This is the question that the fertile imagination of Gavin Watson has explored over the past two years. Viewing the world from a dog’s eye view, Watson leads us through a diverse spectrum of emotions, from boredom to expectancy, melancholy and contentment. His light-filled paintings playfully reference a deep and diverse range of sources, from literature and art history to popular culture, and are populated
by a loveable and idiosyncratic cast of characters. Imbued with the artist’s signature warmth and humour, these works are the product of deep meditation and meticulous craftsmanship, yet always wear their learning lightly. Above all, they make one thing clear: when we are with our canine companions, we are never alone.