sacred ground beating heart
works by Judy Watson 1989 - 2002
19 March–24 April 200419 Mar–24 Apr 2004
Judy Watson‘s first hometown survey exhibition, sacred ground beating heart, conjures that modest but evocative word ‘skin’. Replete with symbolism and meaning, anomaly and contradiction, skin can be simultaneously surface, layer, boundary, and envelope; legible parchment or indecipherable; mundane, breathtakingly beautiful, erotic or profoundly sacred. In Aboriginal cultures ‘skin’ has all these meanings and more.
The large unbounded canvases are talismans of Country, sacred skins from those ‘nourishing terrains’ that, in Aboriginal cosmology, are alive with ‘consciousness and a will toward life’ and that have a ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’. In this universe, Watson writes, the ground becomes a ‘skin stretched over the folds of a living organism breathing’. Inspired by Watson’s ancestral Waanyi Country in north-West Queensland, the earth skins instil a compelling sense of living Country using fluids and friction. Watson expresses the corporeal links in Aboriginal cosmology between the surface of the earth and human skin, referring to deeply etched marks on rocks as ‘reverse welts of body scarification, wounds within country’. Watson’s grandmothers’s Country and its people carry in their skins the wounds and scars of generations of precarious living with the white man. A compelling aspect of these works is that while their content may be devastating, they nevertheless remain miraculously beautiful and powerful.