Judy Watson acquired by MCA and Tate

Congratulations to Waanyi artist Judy Watson (Queensland) who was announced this week by Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Tate as one of the five artists alongside Simryn Gill (Sydney and Malaysia), senior Gija artist Mabel Juli (East Kimberley, Western Australia), senior Yolŋu artist Noŋgirrŋa Marawili (East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory) and Kokatha and Nukunu artist Yhonnie Scarce whose works have been acquired as part of the International Joint Acquisition Program for contemporary Australian art.

memory scar, grevillea, mangrove pod (& net) (2020), pictured, first exhibited at Tolarno Galleries in 2020, is one of Watson’s most significant recent works. Whereas much of her practice engages with collections and archives, this painting is distinguished by its origins in the artist’s lived experience. Visually, it exemplifies Watson’s unique approach to building layered compositions on unstretched canvas by combining washes of pigment, transposed motifs and other forms of mark making – in this case intricately stitched line work that refers to scarring as a sign of trauma, but also of repair. Watson made this painting during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organic materials were gathered from her garden and on walks. The red lines, meanwhile, are based on a graph that was circulating in news media showing the effect of Australia’s economic recession on household savings.

The jointly acquired artworks by Mabel Juli, Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce, will soon go on display for the first time at Tate Modern in London as part of their expanded rehang of the acclaimed collection exhibition A Year in Art: Australia 1992.