YANNIMA TOMMY WATSON (c1935 - 2017)
Yannima Tommy Watson known as Tommy Watson (born 1930s) was an Indigenous Australian artist, of the Pitjantjatjara people from Australia’s Central Western Desert. He was described by one critic as "the greatest living painter of the Western Desert".
He was born around 1935 in Anumarapiti, 75 kilometres west of Irrunytju, also known as Wingellina, in Western Australia, near the junction of its border with the Northern Territory and South Australia. His given names of Yannima and Pikarli relate to specific sites near Anumarapiti.
Tommy Watson began painting in 2001, and was one of a handful of painters establishing the Irrunytju community art centre in 2001.
Watson's work has received critical acclaim, both within Australia and internationally, with art critics drawing parallels between Watson and Western Abstract painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. John MacDonald wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that Watson "is a master of invention and arguably the outstanding painter of the Western Desert", going on to compare his use of colour to Henri Matisse.
In 2003 Watson was one of eight Indigenous artists, alongside Paddy Bedford, John Mawurndjul, Ningura Napurrula, Lena Nyadbi, Michael Riley, Judy Watson and Gulumbu Yunupingu, who collaborated on a commission to provide works that decorate one of the Musée du quai Branly's four buildings completed in 2006.
In 2014, a major work of 160 x 485 cm by Tommy Watson was exhibited at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), one of the world's most prestigious art fairs. Watson's work was also on display as part of a group exhibition of First Contact Western Desert Masters also featuring Naata Nungurrayi, Esther Giles Nampitjinpa, and George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi at the Piermarq gallery in Sydney in June-July 2014.
In 2014 the Art Series Hotel Group named Watson as the first Indigenous artist to feature in the collection. Located in Adelaide, his namesake hotel The Watson features a collection of high-quality reproduction prints.