Mudunama Kundana Wandaraba Jarribirri: Judy Watson At Queensland Art Gallery By Julie Fison

April 9, 2024

Queensland artist Judy Watson explores ecological devastation, social injustice and Australia’s blood-soaked colonial past in her largest ever solo exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. Her huge ethereal indigo and ochre prints, that she is best known for, are part of a comprehensive survey of four decades of work. A total of 130 prints, paintings and installations have been collected for the exhibition. Among the vast stunning canvases is Bloom, a powerful depiction of Queensland’s largest oil spill that took place just north of Moreton Bay in 2009, as well as her bronze stones, which were first exhibited in the 1997 Venice Biennale and mark sites of Frontier War massacres.

Watson’s most confronting pieces come from her time on her grandmother’s country at Boodjamulla, in the far north-west of the state. The beautiful spring-fed gorge – one of the most spectacular places in outback Queensland – features heavily in the exhibition, with sumptuous blues signifying the endless skies and the vital freshwater springs of Boodjamulla.

Blue is also the ‘colour of memory’ for Watson. While on her Waanyi homelands she uncovered stories of horrendous crimes against Indigenous people at Lawn Hill Station. The tragedies represented in the prints and installations are a stark reminder of Australia’s
colonial violence.

Mudunama kundana wandaraba jarribirri, the title of the exhibition, comes from a poem written by Watson’s son Otis Carmichael. It means tomorrow the tree grows stronger. A flourishing sapling is used as a metaphor for reclaiming language to regenerate Indigenous culture.

If you enjoy powerful art with a conscience, you won’t want to miss this one.

Mudunama kundana wandaraba jarribirri: Judy Watson is free. It runs at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, until 11 August.

Julie Fison is a Brisbane author and travel lover. Her debut novel for adults, One Punch, is a compelling contemporary drama that tells the story of two mothers facing impossible decisions after one life-changing night. When not at her desk, you can find Julie hiking a bush trail with her energetic border collie, exploring the outback, or chasing the perfect sunset. She is a committed traveller and enjoys sharing tips for midlife adventure.

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