Harry Watson in The Watson Gallery, in front of paintings by Jason Burns. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Lisa Urbani

Artist Harry Watson has an eye for new talent, and his dealer gallery in Masterton – tucked away on the top floor of the art deco building at 2 Perry St – is showing the work of Palmerston North artist Dale Anthony.

When I visited the gallery it featured Sam Melser’s ‘Viral Dystopia’ – a playful take on primitive and primal responses to uncertain times, with faint reference to covid-19, but that has now been taken down.

As the only dealer gallery in Masterton, Harry will showcase one or more artists exclusively for a period of time – usually a month – and as an artist of note himself – being well known especially for his quirky wood carvings, as well as his painting – Harry shares his “artistic sensibilities and passion for art” with visitors.

One of five boys growing up in Wellington, he had a bohemian and inspiring childhood, with his writer parents being the social hub for many diverse personalities – poets, writers, artists and musicians.

He candidly admitted he was somewhat “wayward” despite his “fabulous” teachers, but he “always had to draw and paint, to create”.
In his 20s, he began to take art more seriously, when he became fascinated with reliquaries and saints, and medieval busts, and how religion has inspired great art – all of which led to his own carved angels, and fantastical, historical and colonial, tongue-in-cheek figurines, which feature so in many of his creations.

Self-taught, he has many exhibitions to his name, as well as being represented by leading galleries and having his art held in several private and public collections.

Affordability drew him to Wairarapa 25 years ago, and he was a part-time art tutor at King Street Artworks for 20 years, although he also worked in several other fields.

Opening the gallery was a spontaneous decision in mid-February, and another artist who features prominently in his gallery, is Masterton’s Jason Burns.

His expectation for his gallery is that it “will be a New Zealand gallery, based in Masterton, showing artists from around New Zealand, as well as locals”.

True to his offbeat sense of humour, videos which feature on the gallery’s Facebook page “make fun of some of the more affectatious aspects of the art world and also show ‘not art’, such as tastefully framed bottle tops and matchbooks”.

The toilet in the gallery has had a blessing and a tapu lifting ceremony performed, and now houses some miniature works of art.

Harry’s advice when it comes to art?

“Respond to art in your own way, try not to interpret it – art makes you look, it lifts your spirit.”

Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 10am-3pm.