Judy Watson created tow row for the entry to Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art as part of the gallery’s 10-year anniversary celebrations.
Inspired by ancestral woven fishing nets made by south-east Queensland’s Aboriginal communities, the bronze artwork references the site of Kurilpa — place of the water rat — where the gallery now stands. It was an important food gathering and hunting site, used by people from Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Moreton Island, and the Logan River, during their annual meetings. There was an Aboriginal walking path, which continues to wind along the river on what is now Montague Road.
Watson’s extensive catalogue of work explores her Aboriginal heritage, and often utilises a form of cultural retrieval within a contemporary context. Watson worked with the, and the local Indigenous community to research the work.
She collaborated with local Aboriginal artist, Leecee Carmichael, to explore materials, string making and knotting techniques; to reference the nets and develop samples for casting. Leecee wove a large net which covered the underlying sculptural form, from which moulds were taken in preparation for casting. The fragility of the object cloaks its hidden strength and is a metaphor for the resilience of Aboriginal people who have held onto the importance of land, culture and family through adversity and deprivation.
The woven net of tow row allows light and air to pass through, creating beautiful shadows across the surface of the ground. Together with Watson, UAP helped to develop, fabricate and install the bronze sculpture, which now stands as an important addition to the collection of public works within Brisbane’s dynamic Cultural Precinct.
I imagine the work as delicate, beautiful and poignant, lit at night to create elegant shadows and draw people towards it. The ethereal ‘tow row’ will emerge from the ground creating an emotional landscape and educative entry into GOMA. The netted form will be a lasting reminder of the indelible Aboriginal presence that is a part of this shared space.Judy Watson
Image credits: Roger D'Souza, Rachel See