Congratulations to Vincent Namatjira, recipient of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission 2021.
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, and Namatjira 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; his 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.”
Artist Vincent Namatjira with P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future), 2021, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2021, supported by Veolia Environmental Services
Photograph Daniel Boud