A Spotlight On A British Contemporary Artist

An Interview With Oliver James Watt:

With this year being a particularly stressful and testing time for many people worldwide, it has been art that has provided the hope and ray of sunshine that we’ve all needed. From Banksy’s Coronavirus artwork on the London Underground to street art supporting the NHS – art continues to inspire and delight us.

In light of this, we’re chatting to Oliver James Watt, a Surrey-based British contemporary artist on what art means to him and finding out more about his artistic process. Furthermore, we’re exploring why contemporary art was the right path for Oliver James Watt as a British artist.

Hi Oliver, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Your work really draws upon emotions, with titles such as Calm, Deny and Escape. Could you tell us more about what contemporary art means to you?

Contemporary art is the art of the present, produced by living artists in the twenty-first century. It is art that provides an opportunity to reflect on today’s social issues and the world around us.

Contemporary art can be very diverse, and works can be a combination of materials, concepts and methods. I have always felt that contemporary art should provoke a feeling or connection with the viewer.

For me, producing contemporary art on canvas is an opportunity to explore subjects that are relevant and personal to me, my journey in life, my work picks up on emotions, and this is reflected through my colours, textures and compositions.

Is there a British contemporary artist that inspires you?

Throughout my studies, I have always admired the likes of Hockney, Francis Bacon and Freud (to name a few). These are people who have been so influential for British art in their own rights.

I primarily focus on painting abstract works as this brings me the most enjoyment, so I am naturally drawn to similar contemporary abstract artists. Some artists I like to follow and feel inspired by are:

Sam Lock – I’m really drawn to the natural essence of his work; it’s an interesting process of how he ages his pieces to create such unique work.

Kerr Ashmore – A genuinely talented landscape painter, and I admire the emotive scenes she creates; her process is also similar to mine by using emotions, feelings and experiences to produce her work.

Jessica Zoob – Her impressionisms revere dream state creations; I really admire how she builds up layers to produce her poignant pieces of work, her signature colour palette is beautiful.

Bethany Holmes – Her works are predominantly inspired by nature, but I’m really drawn to her use of colours, compositions and the general rawness to her finished work.

Overall, I admire all abstract artists as I can understand the process, and I can appreciate the personal effort that goes into each piece.

Thanks for sharing! These all look like fascinating artists to follow. But, who or what actually got you interested in abstract art?

Producing abstract art was a natural process. It enables me to express myself in a way that other art cannot. I feel a sense of freedom when creating abstract work; I’m not bound by traditional rules or techniques. Abstract art painting allows me to respond to my own thoughts, feelings and experiences within the world we live in.

This is clear by your incredibly emotive work! Did you feel drawn to abstract art before you began your art studies?

I was always naturally drawn to art from a very early age; I guess it’s a part of me, drawing and painting have always been a gift which I have found enjoyment in.

Studying art allowed me to learn more about the history of art and to focus on using many techniques to produce work from a brief. I’ve been lucky enough to have some real mentors in my life who have always supported my journey and pushed me to keep going. My wife also gives the time I need to hide away in my studio when I’m desperate to finish a piece.

As a British contemporary artist, can you tell us more about your process in creating an artwork?

The joy of painting abstract art is that there are no rules or specific methods to produce work. When I create new work, I often draw on inspiration from;

  • Art I’ve seen which I appreciate in galleries, museums, shops or on my travels
  • If I see colours that I like in books, magazines, online, interiors
  • Literature, poetry, culture, skylines
  • I may be in a particular mood which dictates how the piece evolves
  • I also sometimes get inspiration from previous paintings and use elements of these.

With any piece, I always begin with the background colours. This is this base layer and can really dictate the mood and the final composition of the piece. When starting any new work it is an exciting opportunity to add textures, some of my work is heavily textured, so I find its best to add these at the beginning, it can take 2-3 days for heavy textures to dry properly.

Once the base and background layers are completed, then I really tend to experiment and see where each piece takes me, some paintings just take form straightaway and feel easier to create. But for others, I can spend weeks on them.

I tend to know when a painting is working, and if I’m happy with the direction it’s taking quite quickly. As I work on each piece, then the elements of form, colour, line, tone, and textures come to life – I will work on these differently for each piece.

If I’m working directly for clients or commissions, then the process can vastly change, it really depends on the layers, tones and compositions which will dictate the approach on creating the piece.

Is there a particular time of day that’s more creative for you?

I much prefer painting late at night when it’s cosy in the studio. I get there when it seems the whole world is asleep, I put music on and paint!

In Britain this year, in particular, art has been so essential in lifting people’s spirits. Do you believe that Britain is leading the way in 21st-century art?

Nobody has the extraordinary range, mix and quality of creative expertise and experience that Britain does. Britains major strength within 21st-century art scene is the international nature of creativity in the UK, due to its cohesive multicultural society. 

Britain has always had a thirst for new art culture and pushing creative boundaries; it is engrained in our character, our national DNA. Because Britain is a small island, we have always sought to be a great trading nation and one that is keen to explore new things and discover new ideas. 

You only need to browse the winners of the Turner Prize to show the diversity of British art in the 21st century; we continually have some of the most exciting artists in the world.

Furthermore, Banksy has proved that art is a universal language; he changed people’s perception of art. Graffiti has now become one of the means of communication of people of different ages and different nations through Banky’s worldwide reach.

Britain also has some of the leading art galleries and museums in the world, with a staggering 250 galleries and museums, including the National Portrait and Saatchi Gallery, London is one leading European countries to showcase 21st-century art.

You can discover about the British contemporary artist, Oliver James Watt, by exploring Oliver’s work in his online shop and finding him on Instagram too.