Protect and Survive: A Look At Gavin Watson's Exhibition at Gallagher And Turner


Man and beast, artist Gavin Watson is fascinated by the inner workings between them. Although we inhabit the same world, our existence, purpose and being differ considerably. Yet, the connection is true. Wilson is a Sunderland lad, born in 1962 who now resides in Northumberland and can boast of work exhibited in New York, with private collections in North America, Europe and the Middle East, and a commission from the Duchess of Northumberland. Nominated for the BP National Portrait Award numerous times, Newcastle gallery Gallagher and Turner welcome him for the display Protect and Survive.

Taking the lead from Italian maestro Caravaggio, he emphasises the light to be sumptuously just so and is consistent with the limited warm, glowy tones of his oil paint pallet echoing land and sea. His creations are realistic but beget a fantastical appeal in structure and composition as if the subject is a captured moment of a yarn. Strangely, the imagery carries my mind back to the joyous 80s Snappy Shot toy where the application of water for the camera would reveal an image of real-life but shown in a differing dimension.

Protect and Survive

Collected sources fuelled the sophisticated creator's show from all areas of his interests: environmental issues to books and TV programme to historical events and cultural traditions, and often he melds them together in a layered expression. Protect and Survive conveys childhood trips to Yorkshire's Flamingo Park, where the luminous pink feathers of the birds refused to match the grey, industrial backdrop of North England. The youthful figure depicted is a mythical Greta Thunberg character protecting the exotic, nude toned flamingo from the rising sea and waves that are organised in an almost zebra skin pattern.

Wild at Heart

The name Wild at Heart is derived from the 1990 David Lynch film and upholds Watson's theme of situations that are not impossible on our dear planet but not an unnoticed regular occurrence. The breathtaking purity of a white hart deer bathed in white light is situated in a domestic Northumberland dwelling as if it were a pet of great loyalty instigating respect. Scratch and Sniff flaunts a pig, who seems like a friendly chap, armed with a basket of fragrant wildflowers, in gorgeously muted shades, strapped to his back, showing that the masking of issues can not be hidden altogether from sight if unresolved.

Scratch n Sniff

Last Child in the Woods

From a research trip to Morelia in Mexico, Gavin observed the migration of Monarch butterflies and learned that the delicate creatures' return coincides with Day of the Dead. In Last Child in the Woods, a girl rushes through the forest trying to capture these butterflies, which act as spirit messengers of the deceased, to communicate further and absorb life lessons. The detail of the uniformed trees here is a sight to behold. Modern collides with traditional for Stagmartyr. A wall-mounted stag has been inhumanely killed for decorative and unnecessary purposes. Being itself has caused its untimely death, with a neon halo, again with expert light placement, above its head, representing its innocence.


Watson keeps a postcard on his studio wall by artist Gillian Wearing, and a man holds the message, ‘Everything is connected in life, the point is to know it and to understand it.’ This notion permeates into the work of Gavin, gathering all he can from his surroundings to form his art. The exhibition is truly scrumptious; you can virtually view it here and can purchase pieces. Gallagher and Turner reopens on April 13th, 2021, when you have the opportunity to witness the works in your own time and find your truth.

Article by Beverley Knight