Contemporary Art Market: High prices for idiosyncrasy

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The Independent Online
ALISON WATT, 28, has just produced her second dazzling show at the Flowers Gallery, 199-205 Richmond Road, London E8. She is an idiosyncratic Scottish painter whose work reminds one of Ingres - the great 19th-century French academic painter.

She has looked at Ingres very carefully and shares his fascination with perfectly delineated flesh. But where Ingres treated his women with romantic respect, Watt's wacky imagination leads her to position her female nudes, or semi-nudes, against a crazy miscellany of still-life items that apparently lie around in her studio.

Watt first achieved fame with her portrait of the Queen Mother with a teacup on her head and her first show at the Scottish Gallery in Cork Street in 1990 attracted wide acclaim. By the standard of 28-year-olds who have not yet been short- listed for the Turner Prize, her prices are quite high.

She is now working on six- footers priced about pounds 15,000. Her Crown of Thorns, for instance, in which she has painted herself clutching red roses to her bosom with a white bedspread pinned to the wall behind her and rose leaves in her hair, is priced at pounds 16,000 plus VAT. She is good at small heads, which come in about pounds 3,000, while prices for middle- sized works fall in between.

The Angela Flowers Gallery moved to the East End in 1988 in the hope of starting a fashion parallel to New York's gallery renaissance in the low- rent warehouses of SoHo. They were joined by the Paton Gallery at 282 Richmond Road last autumn. Graham Paton was exuberant last week over the effect of his move from Covent Garden. 'I've found 40 new collectors in two months', he said.

Paton is showing Nicholas Jolly, a British contemporary of Watt's, who, like her, works in figurative mode but with a Gothic imagination. He is obsessed with crucifixions, dividing the conventional scene into a patchwork of body sections, to emphasise the stigmata, the wound in Jesus's side, and his testicles; Black Crucifixion costs pounds 7,000.

The centrepiece of his show is Magic Wound, a 7 1/2 ft canvas depicting a man showing a wound in his bottom to a naked girl seated astride a chair ( pounds 7,000).

Last year Flowers took over a new space in Paton's building where they concentrate on sculpture. They are showing a retrospective of rarely-seen work by the 80-year-old Denis Mitchell, which started out in the Penwith Gallery in St Ives last year.

(Photograph omitted)