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Simon Watkinson



Following the time spent working in Holland Simon returned to the North East of England to establish a practice tackling a range of Public Realm schemes and temporary interventions. Consciously choosing to work outside the gallery he has striven to create work that evolves form a consideration of Place. This tackles both the physical and the social aspects of each environment he works in. This is sometimes simply as an artist, others as part of Design Teams. The outcomes continue to be quite distinct from one another in terms of scale, material, and imagery, always trying to conjure contemporary responses to local/associated materials and themes. The need to respond sensitively to the changing nature of the sites in which he works has resulted in a wide range of approaches being undertaken. This is manifested through temporary projects both here and abroad and by a range of permanent public realm commissions across the UK. Recurring traits are beginning to emerge in the work, the use of lighting being one, but all are very carefully evolved from a direct engagement with the area, coupled with the realization that as an artist his interest is in creating spaces, defining edges and boundaries, thresholds and open spaces. His approach is based on the premise that it is important for artists to explore their interests, particular in the built environment, on equal terms with all the other visual demands on our attention, be it advertising, car design, fashion or simply buildings themselves. This frequently necessitates a role as part of a wider team. The other attraction of working in the Public Realm is the notion of the populace or crowd. Various projects use the accumulation of everyday objects as a presentation of this crowd, not just a landmark icon, but something that stands up to closer inspection. Rather than simply highlighting an individual this touches upon the diversity and dynamic of contemporary life. Whilst each individual project element is clearly defined, their integration into the urban setting, on all levels, is as important as they are in isolation. Several schemes, including Fakenham, Theatre Royal in Newcastle, and “Halation” in Southampton have taken the form of highlighting and improving the setting of Listed Buildings or Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Recent work in Poole at Old Orchard has been undertaken with the Planning and Highway’s teams, creating a shared space and new focal point on the High Street. “Visioning” and master-planning have inevitably become part and parcel of the work, and have grown from the initial concern with siting work within the built environment.

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