Harry Watson’s carvings retain aspects of the medieval reliquaries and altarpieces that first inspired him. Carved angels no longer feature in Watson’s works however, the winged figures that take pride of place are New Zealand’s avian inhabitants, native or introduced. Instead of saints or biblical figures, Watson carves characters from the country’s (colonial) history books into his wallpieces.
The works are secular reliquaries for a colonised Aotearoa, holding remnants of memory and fragments of history. Watson’s deliberately naive style of carving undermines the traditional gravitas accorded to grand historical narratives, and his wryly humourous depictions provide audiences with alternate views of New Zealand’s social landscapes.
Wairarapa-based Watson is a self-taught artist and views his carving practice as a way in which the past and present can intersect, both in the physical process of making as well as the works he produces: “I find it interesting to know that a nice sharp chisel has been cutting through wood longer than I've been alive”. (1) His works have been exhibited at Aratoi: Wairarapa Art and History and the Suter Gallery.