Clubbing with rock stars, networking with Sir Elton John and fumbling for words in front of the head of the World Bank -“ it’s an extraordinary existence for a boy from Melbourne. Just as in his artworks though, the real and surreal elements of Ross Watson’s life seem to merge seamlessly.

Exhibiting since 1984, Watson’s latest show, which featured at Dank Street as part of the Mardi Gras festival, presented the 20-year-old Silence Paintings series alongside his newer ventures in Catalogue XXVIII Photographs.

Watson moved into photography 18 months ago, and his fans will be pleased to see the familiar allusions to classic art and homoerotic undertones still present.

With the way I paint, it would be incredibly time-consuming to try and capture all the detail that I want in a work, he said.

Photography allows me to capture something that would probably take me up to a year to paint.

Featuring big name individuals like Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears and AFL players Paul Licuria and Brodie Holland, the works are as much admired by celeb cult followers and celebrity collectors alike.

The people that I feature in my works are all people I find to be incredibly inspiring and impressive people in terms of what they’ve achieved in their careers, Watson said.

I don’t tend to get starstruck, what they say is true, celebrities are just like anyone else, they have their own issues and insecurities.

On mentioning Jake Shears, Watson talks of how wonderful it was to meet him. We talked about politics and his passion for Obama, and then he asked us to take him out clubbing.

Elton John, meanwhile, is mentioned with the familiarity most artists reserve for their agent.

Elton was the one who hooked me up with Jake. That’s often the hardest part, finding a way to get in touch with the people you want to feature.

Of all the individuals Watson has crossed paths with, there is only one among them with whom he admits he felt an element of awe, James D. Wolfensohn, who bought five of Watson’s pieces a mere two years before he was appointed as the head of the World Bank.

On the flight over to New York I was reading an article on Wolfensohn, about his role with the Carnegie Hall and other major institutions and it got me a bit nervous about meeting him, Watson said.

I was led into his office, which had this amazing view of New York and the Chrysler building and then I noticed that he had his desk facing so he had his back to the view.

When I asked him about it he said that he had such a stressful job that what he wanted when he looked up from his papers was to see my artwork. He said that it had a soothing effect.

It really is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received, and definitely not something I ever could have imagined when I was back in Melbourne making the pieces.

info: For more information on Watson and his work visit www.rosswatson.com.

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