Who is Judy Watson?
Judy Watson was born in 1959 in Munduberra, Queensland, Australia and lives and works in Brisbane.
Watson’s matrilineal family is from Waanyi country in Northwest Queensland and her work is inspired by traditional Waanyi culture.
Archives and histories
She uses the extensive documentation of Aboriginal people in Australia as a resource, but describes discovering how her ancestors were treated as a ‘heavy burden'.
For her artwork a preponderance of aboriginal blood 2005, Watson used documents from the Archive of Queensland State, where her family are from.
The documents reveal how Aboriginal Australians were discriminated against over their voting rights until the 1960s. Before 1965 their right to vote depended on whether a person was a ‘full-blood Aborigine’ (and therefore not entitled to vote) or a ‘half-caste’ (entitled to vote).
Her copies of these archive documents are layered with blood-like pools of red paint, symbolising the pain and deaths of Aboriginal people.
Techniques and materials
Judy Watson trained as a printmaker at art school.
Printmaking often involves using several processes, creating layers and transferring visual information across different surfaces. These techniques have inspired her approach to painting.
By working on the floor, pouring paint and laying the canvas over textured objects and surfaces, Watson creates unexpected marks and patterns.
The artist further adds shells, clay or bark into the mix and even uses the weather! By leaving canvases outside, the elements (as well as dirt and insects) leave unexpected traces and stains on the cloth.
Collaboration and activism
Shared experience is an important part of Judy Watson’s working process.
The artist collaborates with family members to make some of her pieces. She also collaborates with other artists and with the wider Australian community.
Her on-going project the names of places 2016 is a collaboration with the public. The project aims to map all the places in Australia where horrific massacres of Aboriginal people took place.
Watson invites people to contribute their knowledge of where these massacres happened and adds these place names to a database and website that form part of the project. In this way the place names become part of the collective consciousness of the Australian people.
This page is supported by Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, purchased jointly with funds provided by the Qantas Foundation, 2016.