The first-ever survey exhibition of Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira opened at the Art Gallery of South Australia in October as a highlight of the 2023 Tarnanthi Festival
, AGSAs annual celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Through Namatjiras paintings offering a wry look at the politics of history, power and leadership from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective, Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour will chart Namatjiras career, featuring new works, never before on public display, and rarely seen works from national public and private collections that will be displayed across multiple galleries at AGSA. Led by the artist, he is using a thematic approach and will also be including work from the Gallerys collection by his great grandfather Albert Namatjira as he cites him as being one of his greatest inspirations.
Renowned for producing paintings laden with dry wit, Namatjira has established himself over the past decade as a celebrated portraitist and a satirical chronicler of Australian identity. Born in 1983 in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Northern Territory, Namatjira grew up in Perth. As a young adult, he returned to Ntaria (Hermannsburg) in the Northern Territory, where he learnt about his famous great-grandfather, Albert Namatjira, and his family of renowned artists. Vincent Namatjira won the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize at AGSA in 2019. In 2020, he was the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in its 99-year history and in the same year he received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), in honour of his contribution to Indigenous visual arts.
Combining imagery and ideas from history, sport, politics and popular culture in his paintings, Vincent Namatjira says, Im interested in painting strong figures and leaders. We see them on the news and wonder how and why they make their decisions. These powerful people are far away from us here on the APY Lands, but when I paint them it brings them right into the studio. I like to paint with a little bit of humour. Humour takes away some of their power and keeps us all equal.
Vincent Namatjira said, I believe in the power of art, the power of the paintbrush. I know that art can change lives it changed mine and I hope that art can change the world too. Painting is in my blood my great-grandfather Albert Namatjira changed the face of art in Australia. I feel his influence when I paint, especially when I paint our Country. The connection runs deep and it has shaped who I am as an artist. Im proud to be continuing the Namatjira legacy.
I respect the old people their strong culture, their knowledge and their art but a young fella like me doesnt want to make traditional paintings. Just like Albert Namatjira, I wanted to find my own way, to find my own voice and to be heard, Namatjira said.
Tarnanthi Artistic Director Nici Cumpston OAM says, Vincent Namatjira is a significant artist who has cultivated a distinct position in the story of Australian art and culture. At its heart, Tarnanthi is about letting the many voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists shine. Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour will reveal the potency of Vincent Namatjiras voice, through his richly narrative portraiture.
AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM says, The work of Albert Namatjira was the first artist to be acquired by any Australian art museum. Three generations later, his great-grandson Vincent Namatjira is sharing a similar stellar path, as the first Aboriginal artist to win two of Australias most prestigious art awards. Im proud that AGSA is at the forefront with recognition for the artist, this time with his first survey exhibition.
This exhibition will be accompanied by a major monograph on the artist, published by Thames & Hudson. The publication, titled Vincent Namatjira, features words from the artist alongside invited authors and will be available for purchase from the AGSA Store during the exhibition season.
Following its premiere as part of Tarnanthi at AGSA, the exhibition will travel to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra in 2024.
This exhibition will be the centrepiece of Tarnanthi, which returns for its eighth iteration in October 2023. Internationally acclaimed as the largest festival of its kind, Tarnanthi in 2023 comprises a major exhibition at AGSA, a state-wide festival across close to 36 partner venues and the Tarnanthi Art Fair.
At its heart, the Tarnanthi Festival is a series of exhibitions, artist talks, performances and events, showcasing and celebrating contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The Tarnanthi 2023 Gallery-wide exhibition will present works of art from studios, art centres, institutions and communities across the country.
Tarnanthi is led by Artistic Director Nici Cumpston OAM, the Art Gallery of South Australias Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Nici is a proud Barkandji person from the Barka, the Darling River in far west New South Wales, who is also of Afghan, English and Irish heritage. Her career has been characterised by working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to bring new work and new ways of seeing to wider audiences.
The word tarnanthi (pronounced TAR-nan-dee) comes from the language of the Kaurna people, the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains. It means to spring forth or appear like the sun and the first emergence of light. Tarnanthi presents the dynamism of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art from across the country and provides an energised platform for artists to share important stories.
2023 Tarnanthi Festival
October 20th, 2023 - January 21st, 2024