Tommy Watson | Desert Legend

Article: Exhibition Opening

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Article: Exhibition Opening

We titled our much anticipated Tommy Watson solo show ‘Desert Master’ for obvious reasons – as soon as you enter our top gallery space you are simply awestruck by the artistic genius of the late master. Last week art lovers, journalists, and collectors alike braved the miserable Sydney weather to attend the opening of Tommy Watson | Desert Master here at Kate Owen Gallery in Rozelle.

“Sydney is at last getting a serious show of the art of the late Tommy Yannima Watson” writes Jeremy Eccles, and attendees at the exhibition opening certainly did not leave wanting. Kate Owen Gallery put on a feast thanks to Wow Catering, and Ken McGregor (author of the authoritative artist monograph on Tommy Watson) gave a captivating speech on the life and art of Mr Watson. But it was the art that gathered us together that night, and it was the art that was the absolute standout. As Ken McGregor mentioned in his opening address “you’ve put on a monumental display of works, these are museum quality works”. 

The show has been a labour of love for Kate Owen Gallery’s Director, Mr Geoff Henderson for over 18 months and involved securing pieces from the vaults from some of Australia’s most esteemed fine art collectors. “This curation of masterpieces and museum quality works, including many previously unexhibited works, showcase the soaring talent of this recently deceased master,” explains Mr Henderson, “never before have so many of Watson’s seminal works been exhibited in the one space”. One seminal work that has to be seen to be believed is the groundbreaking 2013 piece featured in the Australian newspaper. Standing at just less than 5 meters long it has the power to envelop you in its rhythmical dot work and sensual tones of orange.

Also on display were pieces that demonstrated his intuitive and masterful use of colour and form.  Even artworks such as Anumarapiti - TWAHF0004 which does not command the same wall space as other grand pieces in the show, still holds its own as an exquisite example of Watsons work. Compositionally there is a masterful sense of balance and a surprising selection of colours sit harmoniously and at ease on the canvas. 

As formalities concluded for the night, Geoff Henderson just had one more thing he wanted to say;

“As someone who deals with Indigenous art all the time, it’s moments like this where it’s time to stop and say ‘thank you’ first and foremost to the artist that made this possible…Thank you, Tommy.”

Mr Watson was alive when planning for the exhibition begun, but unfortunately the Desert Master passed away before ever seeing the completed exhibition. It is bitter sweet that he never got to see the celebration and appreciation of his artistic genius on display all around at the exhibition opening, but something tells me he had captured everything he wanted to convey in these monumental paintings he so generously left behind for us.

Tommy Watson | Desert Master will be on display at Kate Own Gallery until 11 November. Gallery is open 10-6 every day.

Can’t make it to the gallery? You can view the online exhibition here. If you would like any further information about the artworks on display, please don’t hesitate to contact the gallery. You can also request an exhibition catalogue here.


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