Judy Watson

Brisbane QLD
  • blue float, east coast, flinders chart  2014
    Acrylic and pencil on canvas
    Dimensions: 179 x 100 cm
    Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane QLD

    Photography: Murray Waite
  • dead littoral (detail)  2014
    Cast bronze installation: group of ten elements
    Dimensions variable
    Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane QLD
    Photography: Murray Waite
    Casting by UAP and Perides Art Foundry
    Acknowledgements: Jerko Starcevic, Mary Stuart
  • dead littoral (detail)  2014
    Cast bronze installation: group of ten elements
    Dimensions variable
    Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane QLD
    Photography: Murray Waite
    Casting by UAP and Perides Art Foundry
    Acknowledgements: Jerko Starcevic, Mary Stuart
  • dead littoral (detail)  2014
    Cast bronze installation: group of ten elements
    Dimensions variable
    Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane QLD
    Photography: Murray Waite
    Casting by UAP and Perides Art Foundry
    Acknowledgements: Jerko Starcevic, Mary Stuart

I am interested in overlap of histories, in the same way that it is freshwater in my grandmother’s country in north–west Queensland and it is saltwater where my dad’s family grew up. This has influenced my life growing up within Australia.

So I am interested in the north–west Queensland gulf country, where my mother’s family is from, through to Burrum Heads where my dad’s family is from and the saltwater connections there.

Judy Watson
South Stradbroke Island, 20 March 2014

If it is the leaves of plants or the leaves of books… I am led into deeper histories. I feel I can just fall into them. I could be in a library for hours. I am constantly excited as an artist by possibilities. There is something between the drawn line on a page; that memory goes down through my eyes, along my arm, out through my finger and onto the page. It is a body memory that is triggered by just seeing the drawing.

I use my canvas as a memory skin. Many times I have sat on them, used them as tarps, eaten off them. I like to take them to sites and push materials from that site into the canvas… imprint them with the body of what is around me. I often work with a pool of water then allow the material to seep into and gradually filter out into water. I am always aware that when it dries it illuminates the space within. It is really important to me to leave space within the work for it to breathe, space for it to shimmer and flicker against the pigment.

I was interested in the Matthew Flinders’ expedition and how it touches on places from the gulf through to the east coast. I was interested in following his boat from Blue Mud Bay in Arnhem Land around to the Queensland coast.

I am always interested in that leakage or that transportation of materials that you see along tide lines. The stingray holes, that sort of thing, those sorts of forms; it is what is left behind that is important to me.

Judy Watson
South Stradbroke Island, 20 March 2014

These are objects I have picked up from the intertidal zone along the east coast. One of the shells is a freshwater mussel shell. A number of these were washed out from a creek in behind the beach at Burrum Heads. I associate them with Mum and our Aboriginal family. They are known as Malamu or water beef, in Waanyi (running water people) country in north-west Queensland. Middens of them are in our country, and are seen as women’s sites too in some places.

The decapitated turtle head was found at Burrum Heads(1) and is possibly the result of a boat strike. The kelp root I picked up at Brunswick Heads(2). This area is on the Flinders’ map, in the blue float work on canvas.

The objects have been cast in bronze and placed on the lit transparent shelf that could be seen as the edge of the sea, between sky and water. The intertidal zone is contentious and has been the site of two important victories for Indigenous people in Australia, with native title and sea rights given to Yolngu people at Blue Mud Bay and to people in the Torres Strait Islands.

The cast bronze objects on the shelf also comment on the passage of boats in these waters. Previous works that I have made also reference the oil spills along the coast where boats have lost oil and chemicals which have been deposited in our waters and along our beaches, endangering marine and bird life, and threatening the freshwater lens and rivers and creeks – our precious, fragile jewels that are the underlying bodies of freshwater that support the environment in these places.

In fact, years ago I made a print, saltwater country, at the Australian Print Workshop (APW) in Melbourne. It was after travelling up north to the Gulf of Carpentaria, a bit north of Waanyi country, to Karumba and Burketown where we went fishing with our family. We saw willy willy (dust storms) blowing across the salt pans. This APW work is made up of two etching plates and chine-collé, and tried to convey the look and feeling of that place, between saltwater and freshwater.

Judy Watson
Email to curator, 24 November 2014

Notes

(1) Burrum Heads is a coastal town 300 kms north of Brisbane, Queensland.

(2) Brunswick Heads is a town on the north coast of New South Wales.

Judy Watson, 2014
Photography: Alex Chomicz