Tommy Watson a senior Pitjantjatjara man was born around the 1930’s in the small community of Irrunytju. He was a founding member of the Irrunytju Art Centre and commenced painting in 2002. He has become a significant contemporary Indigenous Australian artist. Tommy Watson began painting in 2001, at the same time becoming one of a handful of painters establishing the Irrunytju community art centre in 2001, soon after being identified as a leading light in the Aboriginal Art movement, and is held in high esteem both nationally and internationally.
Tommy Watson’s use of strong vibrant colours such as oranges, burgundies, reds, ivory, blues, pinks (and more recently highlights of green) create unfettered, sumptuous and complex compositions that symbolically represent the stories embedded in his country. Judith Ryan, Senior Curator of indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, has described Watson’s colour as ‘incandescent’.
Watson’s work has received critical acclaim, both within Australia and internationally, with art critics drawing parallels between Watson and the great Western Abstractionists Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman for whom spiritual reference was very important. Kandinsky believed that ‘ ..words, musical tones and colours possess the physical power of calling forth soul vibrations. They create identical vibrations, ultimately bringing about the attainment of knowledge. John MacDonald wrote of Watson’s work in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Watson is a master of invention and arguably the outstanding painter of the Western Desert. Each painting tells a specific story, but the most impressive feature is the artist’s use of colour. Like Matisse, Watson knows that one may have warm and cool shades of red, warm and cool shades of blue. but he knows this instinctively, without any formal training. What he knows cannot be verbalised, and cannot be taught, yet no one could see these paintings and not be convinced of their profundity.’
Art Gallery of New South Wales
National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
Musee du Quai Branly, Paris
Art Gallery of Western Australia
South Australian Art Gallery
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Colin Laverty, Collection
Patrick Corrigan, Collection
Kerry Stokes Collection