Judy Watson introduces ‘tow row’


Judy Watson’s work is deeply connected to concealed histories, the significance of objects and the power of memory and loss. In tow row, Watson has responded to a site close to the Brisbane River by referencing woven nets used by Aboriginal people of the area, acknowledging the traditional owners of the site and their everyday fishing activities on the river and local saltwater waterways.

This use of fibre and water as the conduit for catching fish evokes ideas of sustenance, family, culture, survival. The bark used to make the nets was probably collected from the swamps and scrub in the vicinity of the river. The inner bark fibre would have been rolled along the legs, then woven into nets and attached to wood for easy manipulation during the harvesting of fish. The woven nets allow light and air to pass through them and create beautiful shadows across the surface of the ground. The fragility of the objects cloak their hidden strength, a metaphor for the resilience of Aboriginal people who have held onto the importance of land, culture and family through adversity and deprivation.
Judy Watson 2016

Watch our documentary on Watson as she discusses her inspiration for the bronze sculpture, her thought process and view the creation and installation of the work at the entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) by UAP (Urban Art Projects), an internationally recognised local foundry with whom Watson has worked for over 20 years.

Watch | Judy Watson introduces ‘tow row’ 2016

Judy Watson, Waanyi people, Australia b.1959 / Judy Watson with tow row 2016 / Bronze / 193 x 175 x 300cm (approx.) / Commissioned 2016 to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art. This project has been realised with generous support from the Queensland Government, the Neilson Foundation and Cathryn Mittelheuser AM, through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Judy Watson

Judy Watson’s tow row was realised as a Queensland Indigenous Artist Public Art Commission with the generous support from the Queensland Government, the Neilson Foundation and Cathryn Mittelheuser AM through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation. This QAGOMA initiative, part of the GOMA’s tenth anniversary celebrations, aimed to visibly acknowledge the contribution of Queensland Indigenous artists and the continuous role played by Indigenous Australians in the cultural life of this country.

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country. It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.