Judy Watson / Waanyi people / Australia b.1959 / tow row 2016 / Bronze / Commissioned 2016 to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art. This project has been realised with generous support from the Queensland Government, the Neilson Foundation and Cathryn Mittelheuser, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Judy Watson
tow row 2016

On Display: GOMA

The Queensland Indigenous Artist Public Art Commission selected Judy Watson’s proposal for tow row 2016 to celebrate GOMA turning ten. The bronze sculpture is inspired by the traditional fishing nets woven by members of the Aboriginal communities of south-east Queensland.

Drawn from archival material in the Queensland Museum and State Library of Queensland, Judy Watson has put this humble, everyday object back into the landscape where it was once used, renewing an inherently local tradition and bringing it into contemporary memory.

The work evokes ideas of sustenance, family, culture and survival; its apparent fragility cloaks its hidden strength, a metaphor for the resilience of Aboriginal people who have held onto the land, culture and family through adversity and deprivation. It represents the enduring Aboriginal presence in this shared space.

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.

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