Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson
Australian, born 1930
Selected exhibitions
Masterpieces from the Western Desert,
Tjukurrpa: Stories from the Western Desert,
Ancient culture, modern art,
Wentworth Galleries

Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson (or Tommy Watson for short) was a desert nomad for many years before he became a prominent figure in the Western Desert Art Movement in Australia. When he started painting, he was well acquainted with the Papunya Tula painters of the 1970s and ’80s. However, Watson differed from his peers who frequently referenced aboriginal creations myths, believing instead that painting sacred iconography was sacrilegious and deliberately adopting abstraction as his dominant style. His graphic, saturated paintings still carry a narrative weight for the artist, however, referring to the histories of his grandparents and their homeland. “I want to paint these stories so that others can learn and understand about our culture and country,” he says. Watson is also recognized as a skilled and subtle colorist—for one work he used 12 distinct shades of red.