Judy Watson / Waanyi people / Australia b.1959 / grandmother’s song 2007 / Pigment and pastel on canvas / Purchased 2007 with funds from Margaret Greenidge through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation and the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Judy Watson. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016

Judy Watson
grandmother’s song 2007

Not Currently on Display

grandmother’s song 2007 was made after the passing of the artist’s grandmother. Deeply personal and elusive, the painting is imbued with grief, longing and pride for a woman who played a pivotal role in Judy Watson’s development as a person and artist.

The painting features ghostly elements — outlines of Lawn Hill Gorge, a bailer shell, pulsating and energising whorls, native vegetation and a spectral presence — allowing Watson to release her grandmother back to Waanyi country.

Through paint and pigment Judy Watson offers evidence of intimate encounters with the pulse of the earth, heat, air and moisture — the geographical emblems of her heartland. These allusions link with Australian Aboriginal references to totemic beings or culture heroes who metamorphosed into landscape features such as hills and rocks, and who continue to manifest their presence as meteorological or astral phenomena.

Judy Watson was born in 1959 in Mundubbera, west of Maryborough, in south-east Queensland, and lives in Brisbane. The spirit and substance of her work can be found in the homeland of her grandmother and great-grandmother. A descendant of the Waanyi people of north-west Queensland, Watson completed a fine arts degree at the University of Tasmania in 1982.

While living in Sydney, Watson exhibited in the 1989 Artspace survey exhibition ‘A Koori Perspective’ and became associated with the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, which had been established to promote the work of urban Indigenous artists.

In 1995, she received the Moët & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship, and two years later was represented the country in the Australian Pavilion at the 47th Venice Biennale as part of ‘Fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson’. Watson’s work explores drawing, printmaking, painting and sculpture, all referencing an Indigenous connection to land and history.

Discussion Questions

1. Is there a place special to you and your family that you visit often? Why is this place special to you?

2. Why do you think the artist created a blue field of colour in the background? What mood does this colour create?

3. Discuss the relationship between depth and illusion in this work.

Classroom Activities

1. Develop a series of questions to ask an elder in your family or community about their local area and how it has evolved over time. Frame your questions to capture changes in sound, vision and smell.

2. Analyse how the artist has drawn inspiration from grief to provoke and generate discussions about big ideas and personal issues.