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Vincent Namatjira wins $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize


Vincent Namatjira has been named the winner of the South Australian Ramsay Art Prize 2019 for his work Close Contact.

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The great-grandson of famous water colourist Albert Namatjira lives and works in Indulkana in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia.

“Winning this prize means a lot to me and it will hopefully create more opportunities for me to continue to make more ambitious work and to share my practice with new audiences,” said Vincent Namatjira.

“I also hope to use my position to create opportunities for other young artists in remote Indigenous communities. I can honestly say that becoming an artist turned my life around and now I want to be a leader and a role-model for the next generation of young artists.”

Close Contact is a double-sided self-portrait in acrylic paint on plywood that irreverently looks at colonisation and the idea of the heroic portrait.

The title refers to the concept of ‘first contact’ between Indigenous Australians and Captain James Cook. Namatjira uses the double-sided painting as a strategy to explore the reversal of historical narratives of colonisation.

A panel of international and national contemporary art experts selected the winning work.

Guest judge Russell Storer, Deputy Director (Curatorial and Research), National Gallery of Singapore said Close Contact stood out for its clarity, wit and complexity.

“Close Contact is a startling self-portrait combining painting and sculpture, and as such represents a major shift in Vincent’s practice,” Storer said.

“Cook is represented as a persistent shadow of the artist showing how Indigenous and white Australia are inextricably linked by history, but also in the present. Vincent’s thumbs-up stance expresses resilience and humour, crucial strategies for resistance and survival.”

The APY Lands artist has established himself as a subversive and witty portraitist and was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 2019.

The Ramsay Art Prize is presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia and supported in perpetuity by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation to inspire generations of artists and art lovers.

Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Rhana Devenport said the Ramsay Art Prize set out to elevate and accelerate careers of young contemporary Australian artists.

“Vincent Namatjira is at a pivotal point in his career and his work Close Contact represents a new way of working for him,” she said.

All 23 finalists are also eligible for a People’s Choice Prize supported by sponsors Lipman Karas. This non-acquisitive cash prize of $15,000 is chosen by public vote and will be announced on 9 August 2019.

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