Following on from Emily Karaka’s exhibition Waharoa o Ngai Tai, The Fisher Gallery is pleased to present its inaugural international exhibition by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson.
Judy Watson offers a unique vision that explores aboriginal issues within an abstract format. Watson pours passion and personal power into her paintings and prints. The works are abstract but also use traditional patterns and relate to political issues. Judy Watson incorporates the elements of the landscape she is in. She has been known to place exposed canvas on the ground, allowing the contours of the ground surface influence the background of the painting as the pigments are applied, creating delicate forms and silhouettes.
Many of Watson’s paintings are done in the outside environment using materials the landscape provides. In Norway at an artists’ camp, she used mud, iron-oxide and fish blood. Her paintings are combinations of traditional Aboriginal patterns and a contemporary abstract feel which results in a dynamic union representing a contemporary aboriginal spirituality.
The works are indelibly sourced in the North Western Queensland landscape. Watson is not shy to voice concerns on environmental and Aboriginal identity. These issues are sharp and well researched, in a time where land rights has become an issue for New Zealanders and the Mabo resolution in Australia has provided impetus for Aboriginal claims (including the recently publicised claim regarding the Great Barrier Reef).
Watson’s work is a journey to rediscover her heritage. She is a direct descendant of the Waanyi tribe in North Western Queensland. Watson is concerned with Aboriginal identity and the divisions that create modern expectations of Aboriginal Culture; the formula: tribal = authentic, urban = unauthentic. While her grandmother, as was the assimilationist policy of the time, was separated from her family, Watson has found the bridge back between generations. The traditional heirarchy is put to the test, as she creates a link between traditional art and contemporary painting.
One of Australia’s leading contemporary painters, Judy was awarded the Moet and Chandon Award in 1995. Judy Watson’s exhibition of paintings and prints gives audiences the unique chance to see her work as she prepares for the Venice Biennale, where she is representing Australia. This international project is made possible with the support of Air New Zealand.
→ Judy Watson: running water works, 1997, exhibition card