Vincent Namatjira unveils his largest commission at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
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Vincent Namatjira unveils his largest commission at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Vincent Namatjira, 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.

SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia has revealed the seventh iteration of the Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission by renowned Western Arrernte painter Vincent Namatjira.

Namatjira hand-painted directly onto the Museum’s 15-metre-long wall over a two-week period, creating the artist’s largest work to date. The work titled P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future) depicts a group of seven Aboriginal male figures, including a self-portrait, painted on the desert landscape of the artist’s home community of Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) region in South Australia.

Each portrait has been painted in Namajtira’s signature-style caricature, he has incorporated influential figures, some well-known and others less so, who have been important in the artist’s life. These portraits include former AFL football player and 2014 Australian on the Year, Adam Goodes; land-rights campaigner, Eddie Koiki Mabo; famous bantamweight boxer, Lionel Rose; Vincent's great-grandfather, Albert Namatjira; the artist’s late father-in-law and musician, Kunmanara (Jimmy) Pompey; and an Aboriginal stockman who represents male elders from his community.

For the foyer wall commission, the artist has responded directly to the unique dimensions, location, and history of this site, in particular its significance in Australian colonial history as the site of first contact between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and British peoples. As in many of the artist’s works, Namatjira has painted a self-portrait, placing himself standing on the roof of his great-grandfathers Holden ute, holding an Aboriginal flag and pointing towards the Sydney harbour.

MCA Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections and Exhibitions, Clothilde Bullen said Namatjira’s painting will be the first thing that many MCA visitors encounter when they come into the Museum. It sends a powerful message given the historical significance of the site, known as Tallawoladah.

“Each figure in this bold new work has their own story of strength and resilience, but the work is also semi-autobiographical – Vincent selecting them specifically to speak about the way in which his story is also the story of so many Aboriginal Australians – one of survival and continued connections to culture. It speaks too about the importance of representation and the ways in which Aboriginal men are valued and seen in the broader community,” added Bullen.

Speaking about the MCA commission, Namatjira commented: “I’m trying to bring my neck of the woods to the city, to the big smoke, for everyone to see. I painted this for the Indigenous people of Australia... I’m proud to be Aboriginal, and to have these Aboriginal male figures in the world makes me happy for our people.”

Accompanying the Foyer Wall Commission is an audio guide available via the MCA’s online Museum guide, Visitors can listen to Namatjira speaking about the figures and their significance to the artist’s life. The audio guide is also interspersed with archival interview recordings provided by the ABC.

Supporting Partner Veolia Environmental Services have been instrumental to the realisation of this project having supported the MCA and specifically the foyer wall commission for the past seven iterations.

Veolia Australia and New Zealand CEO and Managing Director, Richard Kirkman said: “Veolia are delighted to support the seventh iteration of the Foyer Wall Commission by Vincent Namatjira. The commission gives Australian artists a great opportunity to create new and ambitious work and is a great platform for communities to engage with the work of contemporary artists.”

Namatjira is a renowned painter from the community of Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) region in South Australia working at Iwantja Arts Centre. In 2020, he won the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for his portrait of former footballer Adam Goodes. In 2019, Namatjira was awarded the $100,000 acquisitive Ramsay Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia and was a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013.

Namatjira’s commission is the seventh iteration of the Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission, this project continues to be supported by Veolia Environmental Services. Previous artists include Helen Eager (2012–2013), Guan Wei (2013–2014), Daniel Boyd (2014–2016), Stephen Bush (2016–17), and Khadim Ali (2017–2018), Gemma Smith (2018–2021).

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