Alison Watt – Hiding in Full View
The artist's paintings are good, but suffer in comparison to the photography of Francesca Woodman
‘All rooms will hide you, if you stand just so – ghosts know this, that’s really all they know,’ declares one of the poems by Don Paterson (a credited collaborator in this show), which are printed in fluid lower case type just below eye level on the walls. Hung discreetly among the poems and the featured works, three small but haunting photographs by a third contributor illustrate these words perfectly. Alison Watt’s stated desire to reflect upon the object-as-portraiture method of Francesca Woodman is compelling, but it’s a brave move to show her own work alongside Woodman’s and invite comparison.
In truth, Watt’s paintings and prints are most pleasing if the viewer tries to disassociate them from this referential context. The majority are large oil works, the smoothly flowing contours of white paint upon their surface echoing the pleasing texture of silk, and their patterns recall close-up views of folded and billowing fabrics. The dark spaces, which appear naturally within these folds, hint at a tantalising feminine sexuality, although set against the visual depths of Woodman’s work they can’t help but come off second best. Perhaps Paterson had it best when he wrote: ‘what we show when we disclose, undress – is both the promise and its emptiness.’
Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Jan.