Tommy Watson

Considered as one of the most collectible artists in Australia


Tommy Watson
Other Names: Yannima

Born: 		c. 1935 
Died: 		Nov. 2017 
Region: 		Irrunytju
Community: 	Wingellina 
Language: 	Pitjantjatjara 
Subjects:		Stories from his country
Medium: 		Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 

Subjects: Men's Ceremony, My Country

2003, Highly Commended, 20th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres 
Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
Collections held:	
Musee du Quai Branly, Paris
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth
South Australian Art Gallery, Adelaide
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Elizabeth and Colin Laverty, Sydney
Patrick Corrigan, Sydney
Auscorp, Sydney 
Kerry Stokes, Perth
Group Exhibitions:
2010 Irrunytju Artists, Agathon Galleries, Sydney
2009-2010 Emerging Elders - honouring senior Indigenous artists , 
	National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
2009 Kutu Wara (The Last One), Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries Sydney
2009 Nganmapa Ngura (My Country) Irrunytju Artists, Linton and Kay 
	Fine Art, Perth
2009 New Works: South Western Desert Art of Australia, Agathon 
	Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2009 Nganampa Tjukurpa: South Western Desert Art of Australia', 
	Agathon Galleries Sydney
2009 Agathon Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2008 Agathon Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2008 Lismore Gallery
2008 2003, 2002 Selected for Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres 
	Strait Islander Art Award 
2007 Musee du Quai Branly, Paris (permanent exhibition)
2007 One Sun, One Moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, NSW
2007 Tommy Watson, Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries, NSW
2007 Senior Irrunytju Artists, Agathon Galleries, VIC 
2007 Irrunytju Fundraiser Exhibition Agathon Galleries, NSW 
2006 Tommy Watson, Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries, VIC
2006 Landmarks, National Gallery of Victoria, VIC
2006 Musée du Quai Branly  Paris, France
2005 Tommy Watson, Agathon Solo Exhibition, Sydney NSW
2005 Cairns Regional Art Gallery, QLD
2005 Wollongong City Art Gallery, NSW
2005 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Gallery, VIC
2005 Ngayuku Ngura (My Country), Vivien Anderson Gallery, VIC
2005 Senior Irrunytju Men, Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery, NSW
2004  Colour Power: Aboriginal Art post 1984, National Gallery of 
	Victoria, VIC
2004 NATSIAA - Celebrating 20 Years, National Archives of Australia, ACT
2004 Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, SA
2002/2003/2008 Finalist in Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait 
	Islander Art Awards
Select Bibliography:
Allen, Felicity, "Aborigines conquer colour barrier", Herald Sun, 1/12/2004, pp55.
Askin, Pauline, "Aboriginal art master puts on final public show", Reuters,
Askin. Pauline, "Aboriginal master puts on final public show", Yahoo! News 
	(UK and Ireland), 4/9/2009
Askin, Pauline, "Aboriginal master puts on final public show'", Yahoo! News 
	(USA), 4/9/2009
Backhouse, Megan,  "Art from the centre", The Age, 30/7/2003 pp12.
Backhouse, Megan,  "Maynard snaps up Challis award", The Age, 22/10/2003 pp8.
Backhouse, Megan,  "Visual Arts Dominate RAKA Award show", The Age, 1/11/2003
Backhouse, Megan, "French Passion for Aboriginal art", The Age, 20/10/2004, pp8.
Backhouse, Megan, "Art around the galleries", The Age, 4/11/2006, pp24.
Blackwood, Torsten, Photos, The Wall Street Journal,, 4/9/9/2009
Blackwood, Torsten, "Australia-Art- Aborigines-Watson", Mediafax foto, 4/9/2009
Bock, Andrew, "Radical Contemporaries", Australian Art Review, February-April, 
	2009, pp39
Boyce, Alexandra, "Art", Sun-Herald, 25/6/2006, pp28.
Button, James, "Taking Arnhem Land to the world", The Age, 10/9/2005, pp12.
Button, James,  "Artists' stories will live on forever in Paris museum", Sydney 
	Morning Herald, 10/9/2005. pp19.
Button, James, "Dotted Pathways from the outback to the Skies", 
	Sydney Morning Herald, 20/6/2006.
Buzacott, Martin, "The Bright Lights Illuminating Paris", Courier Mail, 
	17/6/2006, pp4.
Cosic, Miriam, "Home for hopes and Dreaming", The Weekend Australian, 
	17/6/2006, pp19
Crawford, Ashley,  "Architecture for the Irrunytju", The Age, 21/9/2005, pp17.
Crawford, Ashley, "A broad brushstroke", The Age, 19/5/2007, pp18.
Cubby, Ben, Lauren Martin, "Seine scene -stealers", Sydney Morning Herald, 
	12/10/2004 pp16.
Catalogue of Works, Desert Mob, 2003, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs 
Culturla precinct, Alice Springs, 2003
Creagh, Sunanda, "Native titles honoured half a world away", Sydney Morning 
	Herald, 31/5/2006, pp7.
Creagh, Sunanda, "Shalom Gamarada", Sydney Morning Herald, 24/6/2006, pp16.
Eccles, Jeremy, ""Culture Wars", Art Market Report,  Issue 34, Fourth 
	Quarter 2009, pp28-30
Eccles, Jeremy, "MGNT Considers Future of Telstra Art Award", Aboriginal 
	Art Online,1/10/2008
Eccles, Jeremy, "The stars of Aboriginal Art", Aboriginal Art Online 27/3/2008
Eccles, Jeremy, "Now  who's bagging whom?", Australian Art Market Report, 
	Autumn, 2006 pp24-5
Frank, Lillian, "Popular art", Herald Sun, 21/10/2005, pp106.
Geissler, Marie, "The Art of Tommy Watson", Craft Arts International, No. 73, 
	Sydney, 2008 pp2-6.
Geissler, Marie, "Boom Time For Australian's Indigenous Art", Platinum Magazine. 
	No 1, Journal International, Hong Kong, 2008,  pp48-49.
Geissler, Marie, "A Passionate Engagement; Marie Geissler on Collecting Aboriginal 
	Art", Canvas, December 2008
Geissler, Marie, Review of McCulloch's Contemporary Aboriginal Art: the complete 
	guide, Craft Arts International, No.76, pp114-5 
Grigg, Mik, "Art Melbourne 06 VIP Night", The Sunday Age, 23/4/2006, pp20.
Guy, Anna, "Yannima Tommy Watson" (Reviews), Craft Arts International, No.78, 
	2010, pp3
Harper, Alison, "Black Art Goldrush, Australian Art Market Report, Summer 2005/6
Hudson, Fiona, "Parisian Dreaming", The Advertiser, 24/6/2006, pp4.
Hudson, Fiona, "Black and bleu", Herald Sun, 24/6/2006, pp13.
Hudson, Fiona,  "Art of the controversial", Courier Mail, 24/6/2006, pp7
Hutchings, Patrick, "At the roots of art", The Age, 8/7/2006, pp5.
Jackson, Andra, "Outback nomad strides to success", The Age, 8/5/2008.
Knights, Mary, et al: Irrunytju Arts, 2006, p 72
Laverty, Colin and Elizabeth Laverty, Beyond Sacred, Hardie Grant Books, Prahan, 
	Victoria, 2008, pp106-7
McCulloch, Emily, New Beginnings: Classic Paintings from the Corrigan Collection 
	of 21st Century Aboriginal Art, McCulloch & McCulloch Australian Art Books, 
	Fitzroy, Vic., 2008
McCulloch, Susan, "Biting the hand", The Weekend Australian, 30/8/2003, pp25.
McCulloch, Susan, "Desert blooms with raw energy", Weekend Australian, 13/9/2003, pp21
McCulloch, Susan, McCulloch's Contemporary Aboriginal Art: The Complete Guide, 
McCulloch & McCulloch Australian Art Books, Fitzroy, Vic., 3065, 2008
McDonald, John, "A shredded dollar for their thoughts", Sydney Morning Herald, 
	5/11/2005, pp28.
McDonald, John, "The guiding lights", Sydney Morning Herald, 23/12/2005, pp18.
McDonald, John, "Viola, the art of reconciliation", Sydney Morning Herald, 1/7/2006, 
McDonald, John, "Mirror, mirror on the wall", Sydney Morning Herald, 12/8/2006, 
McDonald, John, "Future Dreaming", Qantas Magazine, 2006
McDonald, John, "The Latest How", Sydney Morning Herald, 27/12/2006, pp25.
McDonald, John, "Future Dreaming", Qantas Magazine, 2006.
McDonald, John and R. Ian Lloyd, Studio; Australian Painters on the nature 
	of creativity, R. Lloyd Productions Pty. Ltd. Singapore, 2007
McGregor, Ken, Marie Geissler, "Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson", Macmillan, 
	Melbourne, Victoria, 2011
Mundine, Djon, "The Hosukai Effect, Yannima Tommy Watson",, 2008
Neill, Rosemary, "Cultures reign on the Seine", The Australian, 12/10/2004, pp14.
Perkins, Hetti, Margie West, One Sun, One Moon, Aboriginal Art in Australia, 
	Art gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, pp28.
Perkins, Hetti, "Aboriginal Art of the Walls of Paris"' Look, 2006, pp15-7
Porter, Jeni, "Black dreaming takes wing in France" Sydney Morning Herald, 
	19/7/2005, pp13.
Reid, Graham, "Postcards", Artnews New Zealand, Summer Edition, pp44 Michael, Reid, 
"Tommy Watson",The Art Oracle, Sydney Morning Herald
Room Brochure, 20th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award, 
	2003, pp4
Rothwell, Nicholas, "Remember Wingellina - The life and death of an art phenomenon
	 - Dust to dust", The Weekend Australian, 23/8/2003, pp1.
Rothwell, Nicholas, "Lines shimmer into shape", The Australian, 13/9/2005, pp14.
Rothwell, Nicholas, "Desert Artists Make a Move", The Australian, 17/10/2006
Rothwell, Nicholas, "Theory of National Selection", The Australian, 19/8/2008
Ryan, Judith, Landmarks, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2006, pp71.
Ryan, Judith, (ed.),Colour Power, Aboriginal Art Post 1984, in the collection 
	of the National Gallery of Victoria, pp112.
Stewart, Phoebe, "Alice gallery defends its honour in court", Northern Territory 
	News, 12/7/2007, pp9.
Stewart, Phoebe, "Artist wins $300,000", Northern Territory News, 12/4/2008, pp11.
Stewart, Phoebe, "This was a fight about artists", Northern Territory News, 
	12/4/2008, pp20.
Stowell, Jill,  "A glimpse of brilliance", Newcastle Herald, 19/5/2007, pp30.
Sweet, Michael, "Mining the desert for art , not history", The Australian, 
	7/9/2004, pp16.
Symons, Emma Kate, "View on the Seine is Aboriginal", The Australian, 9/9/2005, 
Wilson, Ashley. "Last Hurrah for old man of brush". The Australian, 7/7/2009,pp7

© Discovery Media, Documentation Pty Ltd, and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Tommy Watson was born c. 1935 at Anamarapiti, about 44 km west of the small 
community of Irrunytju, which is situated on the tri-state border of Western 
Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory. He is of the Pitjantjatjara 
people. He travelled in the bush with his parents. He learnt about hunting and 
respecting country from his father. With these skills he set out on his own, 
living like his father taught him. " I want to paint these stories so that 
others can learn and understand about our culture and country".

Watson began painting in 2002 following the establishment of the community arts 
centre at Irrunytju in 2001 by the senior women of the community. His work was 
first exhibited in 2002 in Wati tjilpiku tjukurpa (Senior men's stories) at the 
Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery, Sydney, and in Desert mob at Araluen Art Centre, 
Alice Springs. Watson was selected for the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres 
Strait Islander Art Award in 2003 and 2002 and is represented in the collections 
of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and the National Gallery of Victoria, 
Melbourne. Watson is widely recognised and respected both nationally and 
internationally, notably being selected to exhibit his work (as a permanent fixture) 
in the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

Andra Jackson,	May 8, 2008
TOMMY Watson sits quietly and toys with his walking stick to trace an outline on 
the floor. His niece Jorna says the Alice Springs artist often uses a stick in the 
same manner to draw an idea in the dirt for what might become an acclaimed painting. 
While others talk around and about him, the elderly artist from the Northern 
Territory border's Irrunytju community, has a faraway look in his eyes. He speaks 
only Pitjantjatjara and his niece and Agathon Galleries owner John Ioannou translate 
for him. No one is sure of his age. His niece produced a health card that shows 
his birth date as July 1, 1936, but suggests this is probably when health authorities 
first saw him. It was more likely he is in his 80s, she said.

What is more certain is that six years after taking up painting, Tommy Watson holds 
the record for the highest price fetched by a living indigenous artist. That was for 
his work, Waltitjata, which fetched $240,000, while an exhibition of his paintings, 
two years ago sold out before it opened. He was in Melbourne for last night's reopening 
of the Agathon Galleries in Armadale, where his paintings are included in an exhibition 
of works by indigenous artists. Last year his works were bought by the Musee du Quai 
museum in Paris.

While proud of the recognition his works have drawn, Paris doesn't figure in the world 
of someone who spent his early years living a nomadic lifestyle and walking thousands 
of kilometres for survival. A stockman for much of his working life, his biggest trip 
outside the Northern Territory before his late blossoming career as an artist was to 
Adelaide as a dancer. He represented the Ngaanyatjarra region at the Adelaide arts 

Asked if he still dances, he raises a hand in protest, and his niece translates: 
"He says 'too old now'." He first encountered painting at Papunya, where a school of 
artists was emerging. It took community worker Albie Vargas at Irrunytju to coax him 
into taking up a brush and he found he enjoyed it. He is a law unto himself when it 
comes to his work, painting only when inspired. "Sometimes we find him up at 7am 
painting over bits he didn't like," Mr Ioannou said.
Copyright © 2008 Fairfax Digital, The Age