Julian Watts: Homelife

Patrick Parrish Gallery is thrilled to present Homelife, Julian Watts’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. In Homelife Watts explores the idea of the home and how it functions as a poetic, living landscape that we not only live in, but are a part of. Working while locked down in his remote rural Oregon studio during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Watts delved deep into his home environment, attempting to understand it on an intimate level as well as recognizing its place within a larger natural context. Watts engaged in an examination of functional everyday home objects such as furniture, bowls, and vessels, and quickly expanded outwards to a more cosmological view of home, exploring the geology, trees, rivers, and night sky that make up his rural setting. By exploring the perspectives of what constitutes a home in this way, the exhibition presents the objects we engage with and the spaces we live in with the complexity of a biological ecosystem and, in doing so, blurs the line between the home and its inhabitants.

The process and materials used reflect this idea on a fundamental level: the work is made primarily from locally salvaged hardwoods from Western Oregon near Watts’s studio and carved using a combination of traditional hand carving tools and modern power carving techniques. In this way the forests that define the region have been reanimated into new abstract representations of the landscape, as well as into surreal household objects and furniture that illuminate how our homelife is more deeply rooted in the greater natural landscape than we often recognize.

From the macro to the micro, this exhibition also approaches the idea of homelife as the more private or unseen aspects of how we live. Embracing what at times could be described as a reclusive lifestyle in the woods with his partner, dog, and 3 cats, Watts is dedicated to the idea that there are qualities to a landscape, a home, or a psyche that only reveal themselves after periods of deep introspection and solitude in one’s environment, and when they do, they offer profound insights into where and how we actually live. The sculptures in this exhibition can be seen as manifestations of this idea, where forms seem to be emerging and revealing themselves, being drawn out from within the wood through the solitary carving process.

In this vein, books like Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain were important to the development of this collection. In these books, the authors imbed themselves so deeply into their environments that they are able to access an almost mystical understanding of the places they call home. Gothic novels like Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights were also influential to the making of the collection – offering a view of humanity’s relationship to nature in a way so feverishly poetic that it achieves a kind of sublime horror and beauty. Atmospheric Black Metal music even played a role in the creation of the work in this exhibition – specifically bands like Paysage D’Hiver, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Marblebog, where odes to nature, landscape, and weather become abstract and grotesque blocks of sound, interspersed with nature field recordings and beautiful minimalist drones – a sonic mirror of the formal language used in the show. The literature and music that surrounded the studio work for this show has inspired a collection of ambient music compositions by the artist based on sculptures in this collection, to be released following the exhibition.

The result of these varying ideas, processes, and areas of exploration is an ecosystem of abstract biomorphic wood carvings that range from intimate bowls and vessels to surreal furniture experiments to large, purely sculptural objects, all interacting together to bring to life the landscapes that we call home.

An important to note from the artist – “While I have been lucky to be able to spend the pandemic exploring my relationship to my home and nature in a poetic and abstract way, for many people the idea of home is more about survival and is constantly under threat from systems of racial and gender oppression in the U.S.” It is important to the gallery and the artist that we raise awareness about the more complex realities of the idea of home in America that are not addressed in this exhibition. A percentage of sales from Homelife will be donated to True Colors United, an organization that seeks to end youth homelessness, focusing on the experiences of LGBTQ young people who are disproportionately likely to struggle with homelessness.

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