Stronger tomorrow: Judy Watson’s career on show

A new exhibition showcases Judy Watson's remarkable 40-year career, with works intersecting memory, family and Country.
Artist Judy Watson has a new exhibition at QAGOMA showcasing her career.

Bronze termite mounds and inverted dillybag sculptures have taken up residence as an installation in Queensland Art Gallery’s (QAG) watermall. Overlooking the installation, artist Judy Watson recalls a story about her late father, Don Watson, with some humour. Their young family was camping when her father spotted a menacing figure in the distance. Her father clung to his rifle, ready to protect his family, but the dawn light revealed it as a harmless termite mound. 

The artwork, walama, is partly inspired by this family legend. Like so much of Watson’s work, it is also a testament to the environment, an acknowledgment of the past (are the figures ghosts of ancestors?), and an archive of culture. More broadly, the idea that the figures are revealed to be benevolent forces of the natural world underscores much of Watson’s work, on show at QAG in a new, career-spanning exhibition, mudunama kundana wandaraba jarribirri. Watson never flinches from the brutal violence of Australia’s colonial past but also points to a hopeful future. 

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David Burton is a writer from Meanjin, Brisbane. David also works as a playwright, director and author. He is the playwright of over 30 professionally produced plays. He holds a Doctorate in the Creative Industries.