Widely regarded as one of the leading painters working in the UK today, Alison Watt first came to public attention in 1987 when she won the National Portrait Gallery’s coveted annual award while still a student at Glasgow School of Art. Subsequently she became well known for her paintings of figures, often female nudes.


In 1997 Watt’s exhibition Fold at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery marked a turning point in her work by introducing fabric alongside these figures. This was followed by Shift, a major solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2000, which saw Watt move away from the figure and display a series of twelve large paintings depicting swathes of fabric. The absence of the human figure marked an important shift in her work. However, rather than completely abandoning the figure Watt’s new paintings evoked the human body in its absence. In 2006-8 Watt undertook a prestigious residency as Associate Artist at The National Gallery in London. This culminated in the landmark solo exhibition Phantom at the National Gallery in 2008. Watt was awarded an OBE in the same year.


In 2014, as part of the GENERATION programme of exhibitions, a retrospective exhibition of Watt’s paintings was held at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and a solo display was presented at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.


Watt’s exquisitely painted canvases continue to negotiate a position close to abstraction yet are firmly rooted in her studies of drapery, light, the human form and old master paintings and sculpture.