25 Nov – 23 Dec 2017, Parlour Projects, Hastings
Denys Watkins’ dedicated career has been to the visual arts. He has taught and travelled throughout the world, all the while maintaining a steady arts practice, which is now his primary focus. His collection Another Green World brings us candidly to 2017, in the tones of abstraction and tags of modernism. I am moved quickly to the joy of seeing practised lines given a mastery, as these ten works reflect a lifetime of evolving one’s sense of space and composure to canvas.
Imagination and expanse are far more present than the contained sizing of the works, all between 300x300mm and 350x450mm. Most of the collection holds moments of consolidation and calm, achieved through a vested interest in line and form, complement and balance, thin layering and a shared spectrum of colours.
Watkins’ rich intuitive language is posed carefully in gesture that explores the nature-human interface. His palette and geometry feel emblematic of landscape design plans, where black singular circles are markers of positionality, and are located through considered equities of scale and distance.
I sometimes feel I am viewing the works from above, looking down upon a map or formal garden outline that could be micro or macro, where human materialism is present as a code upon slim layers of a brushed green cosmos. Watkins conveys a holding, a liberty even – a kind of suspended free space. The forms linger and are placed how a cell or formal garden ages, matured and lush – free to its own established aesthetic, a beauty within structure.
There is the recurrent oval form, encapsulating space like a natural ‘homing’, resonant of our inner pausing point. In this way, there is a bit of grace and rest present in each work.
In conversation with Denys, it is apparent that the titles of each work are also significant as a further expression of his artistic process. The most human geography of all the works hems like a city. ‘Metropolis’ is painted with a division line, where two worlds and two ways of being are given possibility; city living whilst living by creative inspiration, hard human construct upon sustaining nature. This work conveys densities of scale, implying population and structural intimacy, with a bold finger image the only overt human actuality in the whole collection, reinforced further by the works’ title. I wonder if Watkins is even exploring at this level or if it’s more about the unseen microcosms of mass.
There is an ode to our local landscapes in the work ‘Havelock’, where straight lines and grey shades with the round, soft orange-hued sun are met with the circular geometry of daily living. Lines are used sparingly yet with significance. ‘Life in the golden land’ has its own doorlike outline, almost floating, from which we can clearly step through to a world of formal and informal geometry: an enclosed whole inside, viewed only from the outside looking in. We are in no way privy to the workings of this artist, just to his explorations, expressions and suggestions to what he sees about him. The privacy of a circle as a closed sphere, complete.
Parlour Projects’ tall walls are a sparse and liberal space for these works, allowing for viewers to experience a quiet moment or two of introspection and well worth the time to visit.