Diana Watson

Elysium Spring

October 27 - November 10, 2012

In Greek mythology Elysium was a paradisiacal land of peace, perfect happiness and perpetual spring where "the bounteous earth beareth honey-sweet fruit"*. Bathed in a Golden Age aura Diana Watson's paintings evince a ‘still-life' timelessness. Sumptuous visual essays, they seem totally governed by the pleasures of the eye, however what one sees may not be the whole picture. The works beguile with their luscious subjects and finely modelled forms. The clarity and precision of Watson's realism is readily accessible but the atmosphere is ambiguous. One has the sense of entering symbolic spaces conjured from another time, another place. We are invited to participate in a mystery. The titles of the paintings suggest points of entry.

Woven with metaphor and mythic motif, the world Watson depicts extends well beyond the realm of the everyday. Softly illuminated from an unseen source, the lavish display of fruit in the work Elysium Spring looks both palpably real and dream-like. Surrounded by an impenetrable blackness, the fecund shapes and sensuously rich colours are dramatically accented. The pomegranate with its glistening ruby-red interior is a fruit brimming in allegorical import; love, fertility, abundance, hope. It plays a pivotal role in many a Greek myth including that of Persephone's annual return to the earth from the underworld each spring. Succulent purple grapes traditionally denote liberation, new life, celebration and pleasure. Furthering the picture's air of lush euphoria, a lifted tulip petal exposes the flower's pollen-laden stamens as well as directing attention to a little cricket perched nearby. Crickets in various world cultures are symbols of resurrection and augur good luck, while ears of wheat and tulips represent life's seasonal renewal.

Similar allusive imagery may be discerned in the painting First Temptation. Sitting on a burnished metal table sits a basket of ripe figs and plump grapes. Not only does the fig have connotations of female sexuality but the basket itself is a womb symbol. Bacchus is credited with creating the fig tree and it shares honours with the grape vine in signifying procreation and fecundity. Some Biblical scholars contend the fig, rather than the apple, was the forbidden fruit proffered by Eve. Watson's draping fig leaves serve to indicate the outcome of that particular temptation.

Although regenerative symbolism is again omnipresent in The Messenger and the Resurrection painting, the mood and subject choice is more sober. Watson's homage to the Flemish masters is evident in the marvellously realised lemon, its spiral of peel dangling amidst the ashen folds of an altar-like cloth. A group of attractive but bitter-tasting fruit, huddle in an exotic delftware dish that curiously tilts. The lemons are being unceremoniously inspected and poked about by a white egret, the harbinger of spring. Just out of sight, a small and inconspicuous ‘resurrection' lizard, fresh from hibernation, is attentive to impending change. Aside from the allegorical implications in this work, Watson also wishes to communicate, quite simply, the vibrant play of yellow and blue against a muted ground.

Purely aesthetic considerations are every bit as important to Watson's art as narrative content. Her intention is that the formal pictorial arrangement in her paintings should construct a contemplative space - a moment of stillness grounded in the phenomenal world. The lyrical breadth of Watson's imagery engenders a visual pleasure that nourishes the intellect, renews the spirit and transports the senses into Elysian delight.

*Hesiod: Theogony


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