Tommy Watson Yannima

Tommy Watson Yannima
1935 (Anamarapiti) - 20.12.2017

Language group: Pitjantjatjara


Tommy Watson Yannima is a senior Pitjantjatjara elder, from the Karimara skin group, born around 1935 at Anamarapiti, a homeland 44 kilometres west of the present day community of Irrunytju in Western Australia.

As a young man Watson lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle and walked thousands of kilometres from waterhole to waterhole with his family. During this time he acquired traditional knowledge and practical skills about surviving in the desert. He learned the importance of tribal teachings about the relationship of country to men’s Tjukurpa. Tjukurpa refers to the creation period, or Dreamtime, when ancestral beings created the world as we know it. These stories contain the basis for the religion, law and moral systems of the Aboriginals of Australia.

Before he started to paint for Irrunytju Arts in 2002, Tommy Watson spent a period in his twenties as a stockman in the deserts around Mount Ebenezer, 200 kilometers east of Uluru and then Yuendumu. He later returned to his homeland to live a primarily traditional indigenous lifestyle where ceremony and connection with the land and his culture were very important.

Today, Tommy Watson still maintains strong links with his traditional lands and sacred sites. He paints ancestral stories from both his mother’s country south west of Warakurna and grandfather’s country. Through his art Tommy Watson symbolically passes on vital cultural knowledge.

Interestingly, Tommy keeps the sacred meanings of his paintings private, and like Emily Kame Kngwarrreye, he is not forthcoming about their personal spiritual meaning. His paintings can be described in abstract expressionist terms as exploiting a virtual 'geography of sensation'. The colors and abstract shapes are stunningly beautiful.

Tommy’s emergence as an artist is remarkable within Australian indigenous art. With a professional career of no more than seven years and no formal training in painting except for that which he initially received at the Irrunytju Community Arts Centre, his work has captured the hearts and minds of collectors all around the world. As one of Australia’s most distinguished indigenous artists he has paintings in both major Australian and international collections. It is no wonder that he was one of eight Australian indigenous artists whose work was selected for permanent exhibition at the prestigious Musee du Quai Branly in Paris in 2007.

In Australia, his extraordinary talent was confirmed when his Waltitjata set an all time record for the work of a living aboriginal artist when it sold for $ 240,000 at an auction in 2007.


McGregor, Ken & Zimmer, Jenny, Yannima Tommy Watson, MacMillan Art Publishing, 25 okt. 2010


2018 EXPO Chicago, SmithDavidson Gallery, Chicago, USA
2016 'Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia', Hardvard Art Museums, USA
2015 Signs and Traces. Contemporary Aboriginal Art. Cultural institute Zamek. Poznan, Poland
2010 Irrunytju Artists, Agathon Galleries, Sydney
2009-2010 Emerging Elders – honouring senior Indigenous artists , National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
2009 Kutu Wara (The Last One), Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries Sydney
2009 Nganmapa Ngura (My Country) Irrunytju Artists, Linton and Kay Fine Art, Perth
2009 New Works: South Western Desert Art of Australia, Agathon Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2009 Nganampa Tjukurpa: South Western Desert Art of Australia’, Agathon Galleries Sydney
2009 Agathon Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2008 Agathon Galleries Sydney, Melbourne
2008 Lismore Gallery
2008 2003, 2002 Selected for Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
2007 Musee du Quai Branly, Paris (permanent exhibition)
2007 One Sun, One Moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, NSW
2007 Tommy Watson, Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries, NSW
2007 Senior Irrunytju Artists, Agathon Galleries, VIC
2007 Irrunytju Fundraiser Exhibition Agathon Galleries, NSW
2006 Tommy Watson, Solo Exhibition, Agathon Galleries, VIC
2006 Landmarks, National Gallery of Victoria, VIC
2006 Musée du Quai Branly  Paris, France
2005 Tommy Watson, Agathon Solo Exhibition, Sydney NSW
2005 Cairns Regional Art Gallery, QLD
2005 Wollongong City Art Gallery, NSW
2005 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Gallery, VIC
2005 Ngayuku Ngura (My Country), Vivien Anderson Gallery, VIC
2005 Senior Irrunytju Men, Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery, NSW
2004  Colour Power: Aboriginal Art post 1984, National Gallery of Victoria, VIC
2004 NATSIAA – Celebrating 20 Years, National Archives of Australia, ACT
2004 Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, SA
2002/2003/2008 Finalist in Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
1984, National Gallery of Victoria, VIC 


2008 25th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2003 20th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2002 19th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2002 Wati Tjilpiku Tjukurpa. Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery. Sydney.
2002 Desert Mob. Araluen. Alice Springs. National Gallery of Victoria. Australian National Gallery. Canberra 



• Musée du Quai Branly, Paris
• Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
• National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 
• National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
• Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth
• South Australian Art Gallery, Adelaide
• Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
• Elizabeth and Colin Laverty, Sydney
• Patrick Corrigan, Sydney
• Auscorp, Sydney

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Untju Alkata

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