Today (February 23) marks the beginning of a bold new exhibition in Sydney, Australia, times to coincide with the city’s world famous Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations.

Acclaimed Australian artist Ross Watson is set to reveal his latest exhibition at the prestigious Yellow House Gallery, which explores the artist’s idea of ‘Mateship’ through the mediums of original paintings, photography and edition prints.

The likes of Ian McKellen, Elton John and Stephen Fry are known fans of the bold erotic works, and Ross has previously painted a host of famous faces including Beauty and the Beast’s Luke Evans and world famous adult stars like François Sags and Dolph Lambert.

Intrigued, we caught up with Ross ahead of the exhibition’s launch to get some burning questions off our chest…

‘Matehood’ certainly doesn’t shy away from the male form and full-frontal nudity. Do you find this ever sparks controversy?

Thankfully, no. I was surprised but honoured when Ian McKellen referred to me as “a magician” while viewing art at my latest London exhibition. ‘Matehood’, or ‘Mateship’ as we say in Australia, is one of a number of themes I’ve been exploring in recent years.

After such warm endorsements from famous LGBT+ individuals like Sir Ian and Stephen Fry, does your confidence grow with each release or do you feel more pressure to deliver?

After 30 years working as an artist, I’m generally more confident and assured about my paintings. However, I always try to compare and evaluate my progress.

Whether it’s brotherhood, ‘bromance’ or indeed romance, there’s a sense of feelings unspoken in your work. Is that something fantastical you’re trying to create, or do you think that idea of primal, sexual masculinity is always reality?

Rather than ‘fantastical’, I have managed to capture moments that are often unspoken of.  Like so many of my artworks, they’re deliberately ambiguous. I’m drawn to ambiguity, and artists have no control over how their work is interpreted.

Do people tend to be comfortable about becoming nude models for you?

I’ve never attempted to talk my models into anything. They have the choice, and some are relaxed being naked.

What has been the biggest highlight or achievement of your career so far?

There have been a number which have meant a lot to me. Museums like the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery, collecting my art, painting Stephen Fry, and Ian McKellen opening one of my London exhibitions. Elton John visiting my gallery in Melbourne and collecting my art for 30 years, is another highlight.

You’ve worked with impressive list of people including stars like Francois Sagat and Luke Evans. Is there anyone you’ve worked with who was more or less inhibited than your expected?

I have no expectations of my models. It’s been wonderful that they’ve been excited to be in a painting, which has often been their first opportunity to be painted. 

If someone is going to model for you, what’s the most important attribute they need to have? Is it physical or mental?

I love to celebrate both qualities. Their attitude is most important. I would never paint anyone that I’ve determined has no appreciation for art.

What makes a painting erotic? What is erotica to you and where do you draw the line before something becomes pornography?

I think it’s very subjective – Instagram has recently been removing some of my posts, and closed my latest account!

Who inspires you artistically? 

So many artists, from Caravaggio to Vermeer.

Aside from your homeland, where’s your favourite place to show off your work?

I love exhibiting in the UK.

Who is at the top of your list of people still to paint?

Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Daley, Prince Harry, Hugh Jackman and Troye Sivan.

Ross Watson’s ‘Matehood’ exhibition is at Sydney’s Yellow House Gallery until 5 March. For more information click here.

Follow Ross on Twitter and Instagram, and find out more at rosswatson.com.

Interview: Paul Culshaw

More stories:
Colton Haynes shares cute-as-hell bedroom snap with new boyfriend
Inspiring story of forbidden love discovered in Word War Two letters between two men