Aboriginal art master puts on final public show

Fri Sep 4, 2009 3:16am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Aboriginal artist Yannima Tommy Watson is a man of few words, but his vibrant works literally shout at audiences from the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris and Australia's most prestigious art galleries.

The man widely regarded as Australia's most distinguished indigenous artist whose style has been compared to Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky has, however, decided to hold his last solo exhibition titled "Kutju Wara" or "The Last One."

Sitting quietly among his works at Sydney's Agathon gallery, Watson, who holds the indigenous art auction record for a living artist, let his manager and interpreter do the talking.

"He is getting old and tired, he wants this exhibition to be his last," John Ioannou told Reuters.

"I'm sure he will continue to do small works, but the days of the big works are finished. He has slowed down considerably in the last five years or so."

Art is deeply ingrained in Aboriginal culture as a way to mark territory, time and tell stories about the Dreamtime, or how they believed the world was created.

Watson uses thickly applied acrylic paint to create works that are a riot of color, abstracts of places that have a special meaning to him.

Born around 1935 in one of Australia's remotest desert regions, Watson, whose exact age is unknown, lived a semi-nomadic life with his family, walking thousands of kilometers (miles) from waterhole to waterhole.   Continued...