The name Namatjira is a famous one. Vincent Namatjira’s great-grandfather, Albert Namatjira, was one of Australia’s great painters, uniquely depicting Australia's desert landscapes in vibrant watercolour.
Although he didn't know about his connection with the famous artist in his childhood - he was in foster care and removed from his culture - Vincent has made his own way to success. But this time it was through portraiture. Painting for the first time in 2012, he would soon become a regular finalist in Australia's most famous portrait prize, the Archibald, ultimately winning it in 2020.
He was the first indigenous artist to win the Archibald but, as Vincent would say, 'it only took 99 years'. His winning painting, 'Stand strong for who you are’ was a portrait of the artist with Adam Goodes, the indigenous AFL player who became renowned for speaking out against racism. Vincent saw parallels between Adam's life and his own which he talks about in this conversation.
The subjects of Vincent's portraits are wide-ranging; from his great-grandfather, aboriginal elders and politicians to the Queen, Captain Cook and Vladimir Putin. Painted in an expressive style, his works also encapsulate his unmistakable humour. In one work he places himself in the royal carriage with the Queen and in another is cutting a birthday cake with Donald Trump. Everyone is on a level playing field.
Vincent lives in the Indulkana community in the APY lands, about 400 km south of Alice Springs and is one of about 30 artists connected to its arts centre, Iwantja Arts.
He has received significant acclaim. Apart from winning the Archibald Prize, he won the Ramsay Art prize in 2019, has received an Order of Australia for his contribution to indigenous visual arts, his works have been acquired by the British Museum and significant institutional collections across Australia and he has exhibited in solo shows and international art fairs.
I interviewed Vincent at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia where he had been commissioned to paint the museum’s Foyer wall. It’s a huge 15m work called 'P.P.F (Past-Present-Future)' and depicts people who have been influential in his life. It is a spectacular work and will remain in the foyer for the next two years.
To hear our podcast conversation click on 'play' below the above photo. Scroll down for images of works we talk about on the podcast.
Above photo of Vincent Namatjira by Daniel Boud, standing in front of P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future), 2021, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2021, supported by Veolia Environmental Services, image courtesy the artist; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; and Iwantja Arts, South Australia © the artist,
Vincent Namatjira at Iwantja ArtsVincent Namatjira at This is No Fantasy Albert NamatjiraKunmanara 'Jimmy' PompeyAdam Goodes'The Final Quarter' documentary
'Stand Strong for who you are', 2020, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198cmWinner Archibald Prize 2020, Art Gallery of NSWImage: AGNSW website
'P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future)', 2021, synthetic polymer paint, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2021, supported by Veolia Environmental Services, image courtesy the artist; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; and Iwantja Arts, South Australia © the artist, photograph Daniel Boud
'Studio self-portrait', 2018, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198cm, Highly commended in the Archibald Prize 2018, AGNSWImage: AGNSW website
'The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth)', 2020, acrylic on linen, 67 x 91cmImage courtesy of the artist and Iwantja Arts
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