UMUTJU, 2009

Important Fine Art + Aboriginal Art
2 December 2015


born c.1935
UMUTJU, 2009

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

100.0 x 150.0 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name, title and size

$20,000 – 30,000

Agathon Gallery, Sydney (cat. AGTW 0909090158)
Private collection, United States of America

Catalogue text

As a young boy growing up in a traditional way of life in the area surrounding Anamarapiti (now known as the Irrunytju community), Tommy Watson spent most of his days walking from waterhole to waterhole and hunting. The stories he learnt from his father as they travelled across the arid terrain, encountering important sites in his father’s country became the major inspiration in his later life as an artist. He started his painting career in 2001, when the Australian contemporary Indigenous art movement was already riding a wave of local and international recognition. For Watson painting was, like other Indigenous artists, a way of recording and passing on his own stories to younger members of the community.

The significance of Watson’s work is the strong visual language and bright colours used in his paintings as an ode to the desert homelands. In Umutju, 2009 thick shimmering layers of vibrant red, burgundy, green, blue and white are applied by the artist in an almost meditative process that involves rhythmic dotting. The blocks of colour created represent the landscape and the stories embedded in his country.

In the overview of Watson’s work, written in 2010 by Ken McGregor and Marie Geissler, they note that watching Watson paint is like ‘watching an intense rhythmic performance where the artist enters an almost trance-like state as he dots and periodically bursting into chant or song that relates to his ancestral ‘Dreaming’.’1

McGregor, K., and Geissler, M., Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson, Melbourne, 2010, p. 11