Integral to the telling of Middlesbrough’s industrial heritage are the paintings of artist David Watson. Born 1944 in Southbank during the gradual decline of the North Easts steelworks, both this bygone era and Watsons personal experiences are intertwined and carefully recorded in visual formats. Always presented from an honest working class narrative, the angular shapes, heat and smoke of the industrial landscape and its hard working labourers are captured in true essence with a deliberate impasto technique completed with an industrial colour palette mixed directly on the canvas. The technique involves layering paint onto the canvas surface with a brush or knife, thick enough for the strokes to be visible in a painterly style.
With no formal training, Watson started off as a ‘red leader’ painting the hulls of ships at Smiths Docks when he was 19 after studying art at Middlesbrough College. His first exhibition ‘Land Sea and Air’ at the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar (2012) was in par to his late wife’s efforts and led to his subsequent exhibitions David Watson: Belonging’, Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough (2020), ‘Steel Flesh and Bone: The Industrial Paintings of David Watson’, Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, Northumberland (2016-17), ‘Cotton and Steel’, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Salford (2016), ‘Teesside World Exposition of Art and Technology’, MIMA (2016) and ‘Beyond the Wilderness Road’ shown at Constantine Gallery, Teesside University, Middlesbrough and McGuinness Gallery, Bishop Auckland (2014).