Oliver Watts

Oliver Watts

b. 1976 Sydney, Australia
Lives and works in Sydney, Australia

Oliver Watts is a contemporary painter whose work delves into the historical, psychological and material possibilities of painting. A sustained subject is a way individuals navigate the complexity of the contemporary world. Watts often represents familiar scenes, or painterly genres, and undermines or retells them to create images for a more anxious state of politics and society. The paintings equivocate between high seriousness and the farcical; between historical genres and pop; between tableaux and painterly surface.

Trained as an art historian and curator, Watts has consistently exhibited his paintings. He received his MFA from SCA in 2016 for a series entitled Cordelia/Fool which featured Eryn Jean Norvill as the main protagonist. Watts often uses actors to pose in his works and to collaborate as writers as well as models to help generate gestures and poses that animate the narratives. Watts sometimes uses literary sources from Shakespeare, to Kafka, to Country Road Advertising, that help describe how our identities are created in a contemporary society, and what pressures help form our relationships with others and produce our own self-identity. Watts was a lecturer at SCA between 2011-2017 and is now a curator at Artbank.

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MFA in Painting at Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle
PhD in Art History and Theory, The University of Sydney (submission August 2009), “Images on the Limit of Law: Sovereignty, Modernism and the Effigy
Bachelor of Law (Honours), The University of Sydney
. . .

Solo Exhibitions

'Autopilot Steering', Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney
'House Model', Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney
'Cordelia/Fool series', exhibited with Chalk Horse at Sydney Contemporary and at the Sydney College of the Arts Postgraduate Exhibition, Sydney
. . .

Selected Group Exhibitions

'Laugh Out Loud', La Trobe Regional Gallery, Gippsland
'Group Show', Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne
'Nothing is True', Everything is Permitted, Chalk Horse, Sydney
'Wattle: Contemporary Art in China', The Space, Hong Kong
. . .

Grants | Awards

Doug Moran Portrait Prize (finalist)
Doug Moran Portrait Prize (semi- finalist)
NAVA Marketing Grant
. . .

Academic Appointments

Senior Lecturer, Head Performance Practices at NIDA
Lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts
Co-director, Chalk Horse Gallery and Half Dozen Projects
. . .

Selected Bibliography

Wes Hill, ‘Around Town’, Frieze, issue 186, April 2017
Sebastian Goldspink, ‘Art School Confidential: The Rise of the Sydney Grad Show’,
Raven: A Platform for Contemporary Art and Events, 2014
Robert Nelson, ‘Kafka’s Painter’, Review, The Age, 29 Feb 20.12.2010
Roger Boyce, Exhibition Review, ‘Oliver Watts at Helen Gory Galerie’, Art in America, Online review, Pages Digital
Owen Craven ‘Oliver Watt’s’ Kafkas Painter’, Art Almanac, 14 Feb 2012


Art Bank
National Museum of Australia
Sydney University Collection


Art Association of Australia and New Zealand
Visual Arts Reference Committee, Museum and Galleries NSW
Casual Lecturer at UNSW College of Fine Arts, Sydney University, University of Technology, Sydney
Head Curator at Art Bank, NSW
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