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An image of Wipu rockhole by Tommy Watson

Tommy Watson

(Australia circa 1935 – )

Language group
Pitjantjatjara, Southern Desert region
Wipu rockhole
Place of origin
WingellinaNgaanyatjarrakuCentral and Western DesertNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Media category
Materials used
synthetic polymer paint on canvas

180.5 x 173.0 cm unstretched canvas

Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2004
Accession number
© Tommy Watson. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd.
Yiribana Gallery
Further information

'Wipu Rockhole' 2004 is a significant site in the artist's country. According to documentation from Irrunytju Arts Wipu rockhole "is Watson's Grandfather's country. These are all the rockhole around this area".

This painting demonstrates Watson's characteristic fields of dots depicting the sacred landscape, his country, through planes of colour that meld and intersect. Colour is used with great sensitivity and authority in all his work and this painting is no exception.

'Wipu Rockhole' 2004 is a dramatic image that appears to combine visual depictions of the ancestral activity at the site – the snake-like forms and concentric circles depicted on the left hand side of the canvas – with a cartographic representation of the artist's grandfather's country – black shapes of the rockholes – on the right.

Documentation for the Irrunytju Fundraising Art Auction held in August 2003 at Cromwell's Auction House in Sydney states:
"Tommy Watson was born at Anamarapiti, a homeland 44 kms west of the present day community of Irrunytju, sometime around 1935. He travelled in the bush with his parents. He learnt about hunting and respecting country from his father. With these skills he set out on his own, living like his father taught him".

In the same document Tommy Watson says: "Our paintings are our memories for the future relatives. If they come into the centre, they can see the canvasses that their parents or grandparents did, so they can think about their history, see what their relatives did, what they painted".

Irrunytju Arts is located in Western Australia 720 kms south-east of Alice Springs, in the Ngaagyatjarra / Pitjantjatjara lands. This new art community exhibited for the first time in 2001. Their vibrant and colourful works have since received much attention from private and public collectors. Tommy Watson has emerged as one of the key artists and this reflects his status in the community as a senior Law man and cultural custodian.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004

Bibliography (3)

Ken McGreggor and Marie Geissler, Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson, 'Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson', pg. 7-13, Melbourne, 2010, 32 (colour illus.).

Steven Miller, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Cultural capital: Key moments in the collecting of Australian Indigenous art’, pg. 29-41, Sydney, 2007, 28 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Spreading the culture: from desert rockholes tot he bank of the Seine', pg. 29, Newtown, Apr 2005, 29 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (4)

Irrunytju Wati, Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery, Sydney, 19 Aug 2004–11 Sep 2004

One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007

Country Culture Community (2008-09), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Nov 2008–19 Apr 2009

Our spirits lie in the water, 15 Nov 2014–01 Nov 2015