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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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red tides



Judy Watson


1959 -

Language group

Waanyi, Gulf region


The title comes from newspaper reports of red algae blooms appearing in Sydney Harbour because of too much nitrogen in the water. Watson associated the deadly red blooms with whaling and the sites of Aboriginal massacres where the waters turned red with blood. The work was created for the 1997 Biennale in Venice, another water city where the 'sound of the water is everywhere, especially at high tide, you can hear the waves against the buildings, licking history away'. Her work is about 'memories washing over me', whether the tidal flow of stories from her grandmother's country in Queensland or the history of her Sydney Harbour home - the recurring wash of private and public memory.

Peter Emmett, 'Sydney: metropolis, suburb, harbour', 2000



Place where the work was made

Queensland Australia



Media category


Materials used

pigment and pastel on canvas


186.0 x 120.0 cm


Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1999


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Judy Watson

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 7 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Peter Emmett, Sydney: metropolis, suburb, harbour, 'Harbour', pg. 123-124, Glebe, 2000, 141 (colour illus.), 142.

Jennifer Isaacs, Art and Australia (Vol. 39, No. 4), '1970-2001: International exposure of Aboriginal art', pg. 548-557, Sydney, Jun 2002-Aug 2002, 551 (colour illus.).

Michael Lynch and Hetti Perkins, Fluent, La Biennale di Venezia 1997 Australia, Sydney, 1997, (colour illus.), 46. cat. no. 11

Hetti Perkins, Art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art, 'Home + away', pg. 1-86, Carlton, 2010, 42, 43 (colour illus.), 278.

Hetti Perkins and Margie West, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Judy Watson in conversation’, pg. 304-309, Sydney, 2007, 308 (colour illus.).

Hetti Perkins., Contemporary Aboriginal art: The Mollie Gowing acquisition fund, 'Gifted Contemporary Aboriginal Art: The Mollie Gowing acquisition fund', Sydney, 2006, (colour illus.). not paginated

Ted Snell, sacred ground beating heart: works by Judy Watson 1989 - 2003, Perth, 2003, 47 (colour illus.), 50, 68.

Jill Sykes, Look, 'art + soul: bringing remote cultural riches to a gallery or screen near you', pg. 28-31, Sydney, Sep 2010, 30, 31 (colour illus.).