Many people have asked us who paints the beautiful flower paintings on the wallpaper we have used in our various luxury properties we have designed over recent years. The answer is Australian artist Diana Watson.
Interview by Vivion O’Kelly
We look at and admire the paintings of Diana Watson, not because of their technical brilliance, but because they say something to us that goes way beyond what a mere camera can do. She uses flowers, among other things, as subject matter to tell us how she feels about the world around her, and she does it so well that, even if incapable of seeing beyond the beauty of the flowers themselves, we know how she feels about the world, and we feel it too. This is, in a way, a definition of great art.
Diana was born she’d-rather-not-say years ago in Perth, Western Australia, and attended Perth College with eminent art teacher Robert Juniper, later graduating in Fine Art and Commercial Art in Perth Technical College. Since then she has established herself as one of the country’s leading artists, with many exhibitions throughout Australia, Europe and the USA, her work also being held in private collections in Hong Kong and the Middle East.
The fact that her large-scale work does not dominate, either by size alone, as some contemporary paintings do, or by aggressive use of colour and tone, has not gone unnoticed by the UDesign interior design team. But her work does speak to us directly, in an almost intimate way, like a whisper in the ear, and it tells us that beauty is in the simple things around us, and that it can be painted in a simple way, without extraneous detail that might take from the core image. When Diana paints flowers, that is exactly what they are, and proudly so.
We spoke to Diana Watson about her life and work:
1. It seems to us that your work has been influenced to some extent by Georgia O’Keeffe, and to a much smaller extent, perhaps, by Sidney Nolan, especially in the starkness (and darkness) of some of your images…
Many women artists have influenced me over the years. Rachel Ruysch (1643-1706) and her Dutch flowers along with the vastness of Australian scenery have combined to produce my oversized paintings. Georgia O’Keeffe is one whose story is an inspiration and, of course, Sidney Nolan is an Australian favourite.
2. You worked for several years in fashion. Apart from allowing you the chance to visit Italy regularly, was this commercial work positive to your life as an artist?
I have always had a strong affinity with Italy. Like many Australians we have European heritage. My grandmother was Italian. The art, design, architecture, and style are influences that will always inspire me. So yes, having to travel regularly and meet some very creative designers was wonderful.
3. You have stated in a previous interview that you “capture and record the fleeting beauty of everyday life” in your work. Well, isn’t that what every artist says? One would certainly imagine, looking at your paintings, that there is a lot more than fleeting beauty there. To us it would suggest an entire philosophy on life.
As an artist I respond to the world around me….. and YES, I do respond to beauty and the need to capture it…..Life IS fleeting. This, combined with interest in symbolism, a narrative, history, personal experience, dreams and endless technical ideas, make the subjects I delight in painting.
4. Can you tell us a bit more about growing up in Perth with the desire to be an artist, if this was indeed your desire at an early age.
As an only child growing up on a farm my world was filled with drawing, painting, reading, sewing and riding my pony. I also had parents who encouraged me (my mother let me paint a horse and flowers on the kitchen walls). So yes, I always imagined having a creative life.
5. Was there any single painting you did that was especially important for your career as a professional artist?
The painting that was pivotal in my career was the two-metre-square canvas that an interior designer commissioned for a villa in The Palm in Dubai. It was one of my earliest rose paintings and the start of my overseas commissions. This was followed by Warner Bros, Los Angeles, seeking a similar work to be used on the set of a movie.
6. Do you use technological aids like overhead projectors while working on large-scale paintings?
When you ask about technological aids the answer is a definite NO. I have had a classical training and, if need be, use a grid system as did Leonardo Da Vinci.
7. How long does it take to create one of your large scale paintings?
Time flies when you love what you are doing.
8. How has Australia and its culture, both ancient and modern, defined you and your work? Do you feel any affinity for the paintings of Margaret Preston, for example?
Although I am thoroughly Australian and love everything about it, my paintings, I think, have a very European feel. However, my teacher and mentor Robert Juniper is the Australian artist to whom I aspire.
9. What artists inspire you and why?
Botticelli for the sheer beauty. Caravaggio for his technical genius and Picasso for his innovation and daring.