Bold, painterly and conceptually rich, the work of Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira OAM has gained significant recognition in Australia and abroad. Namatjira’s imagery calls on Australia’s colonial history, with recurring references to Captain Cook, the British Royal family and contemporary aspects of Indigenous life. Recent works reveal his growing interest in contemporary discourse around international political issues. Namatjira’s observational works also chart his personal history and his investigatory search for identity.
‘I’m interested in people and their stories, and how someone from today is connected with the past. I like to paint people who are famous, and paint them here in my community, painting them in the desert puts them into an unexpected place. Having just a little bit of humour can take the power out of a serious situation, whether something is happening to you right now, or it happened long ago – it lets you be in a little bit of control again, you can get a bit of cheeky revenge. A sense of humour and a paintbrush is a powerful thing.’ (Vincent Namatjira OAM)
In 2020 Namatjira was the recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) 2020 in honour of his contribution to Indigenous visual arts and was the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, for his portrait of Adam Goodes.
Namatjira was awarded the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney’s Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission in 2021. He won the $100,000 Ramsay Prize 2019 at the Art Gallery of South Australia and was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 2019. In 2018 Namatijra received Highly Commended in the Archibald Prize and was an invited finalist in the UQ Museum National Self Portrait Prize and Art Gallery of South Australia’s Ramsay Prize 2017. He was a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013 and the John Fries Memorial Award 2015, 2013.
Namatjira exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, Art Basel Miami Beach 2018 and Art London 2016. In 2018 Namatjira’s work was included in Just Not Australian, a major exhibition at Artspace Sydney and touring nationally. Recently his work has been included in the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and exhibitions at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Hazelhurst Gallery and Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria. Previous institutional exhibitions include Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation at the British Museum, London, 2015; TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art 2016; Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of South Australia 2017 & 2018.
Namatjira’s work is held in significant institutional collections including the British Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art.