Sian Watson is that rare bird – a young artist who can sell and exhibit as much work as she makes. Since graduating in 2015 Watson has exhibited work in Canberra, Montana, Murrumbateman, New York, Ontario, Queanbeyan, Sydney, Washington and Yass. Her latest show Future Fables is at Tuggeranong Arts Centre until 29 June.
She went to school and university in Canberra, doing a double degree in sculpture, alongside global development and environmental science at ANU. “The environmental studies informed a lot of my art making,” she says.
Watson’s double degree kept her busy at university, and she has kept up the frantic pace ever since. She was in Montana until the end of April and dashed back to prepare for this show.
Most of the exhibition is new work. Her sculptures are quite substantial so she couldn’t bring a lot back from the US in her suitcase.
So for the last five weeks, Watson has been working furiously with the welder and the concrete grout to get the show done. “I have my workshop in a shed at home,” she says. Home is the property outside Hall where Sian Watson grew up with plenty of space, farm sheds, horses and dogs around her. “I’ve always loved the natural weathered surfaces you get on the farm as well,” she says.
Even Watson’s dad was called into duty as the deadline approached. “He is always very supportive of my work and he’s a tinkerer who has a lot of tools,” she says. “This time, with the show coming up so quickly I’d weld up an armature and he’d put a bit of metal over it to help me.”
The sculptures are then covered with a very strong concrete strength grout. “It is a high-strength, low-shrinkage material – the sort of thing you’d use to put in a power pole,” Watson says. “It is light but very strong.”
Watson’s work centres around animals and birds, in large elongated forms and striking gestural poses. “I’m interested in the human relationship with the landscape,” she explains. “The Bird People are a fusion of human and bird and relate to my interest in migration and movement.”
She has made many bird figures since graduating. “They work really well as an elongated form, and I can go quite big and still move the work around,” she explains. “I work alone so I can’t go too big or they just get too heavy.”
Weight is important when you need to move things from Hall to Tuggeranong. “I delivered all the works for this show in my car,” she says. “I had to make a few trips, but everything fitted in the car – sometimes I have to use a horse float!”
At the gallery install, Watson is pleased with the way the exhibition looks. “Usually I’d have a bit longer to reflect on the work, but the works are resolved, and it looks good in this gallery with all the natural light, so I’m happy,” she says.
She was given this exhibition slot via the Tuggeranong Arts Centre Emerging Artist Solo Exhibition Prize, at the 2018 Sculpture in the Paddock event. “I’m really grateful to them,” she says. “It is lovely to have a show at home so all my school friends, art school friends and family can come along.”
But straight after opening night, this young artist is on the move again. “I’m off to Jindabyne tomorrow for the snow season,” she says.
The snowy mountains have their own special brand of nature and water-weathered surfaces. Perhaps we will see some new influences in Sian Watson’s work when she comes home to Canberra to sculpt for her next exhibition.
Tuggeranong Arts Centre
6 June to Saturday 29 June