Vincent Namatjira’s portrait wins the Ramsay Art Prize

Vincent Namatjira’s portrait wins the Ramsay Art Prize
Photo: Alan Levine, Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira has won the prestigious 2019 Ramsay Art Prize in Adelaide with his painting ‘Close Contact’.

The artist is the great-grandson of the famous watercolour painter Albert Namatjira. Vincent Namatjira, who hails from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands of South Australia, was chosen as winner by a panel of national and international contemporary art experts.

The painting critiques the colonisation of Australia by dealing with the idea of “first contact” experienced by the Indigenous Australians and Captain James Cook.

The artwork, which is painted on plywood, is a change from Namatjira’s usual canvas-based pieces.

Namatjira was also a finalist in the 2019 Archibald Prize and has had his works on display at a number of galleries worldwide. He is known for his consideration of politics from an Indigenous perspective, with famous figures like Donald Trump and the Royal family inspiring a lot of his work.

Besides winning $100,000, Namatjira’s painting will be added to the collection at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The biennial Ramsay Art Prize emerged in 2016 to support Australian artists under the age of 40. The prize was the gift of James and Diana Ramsay, two benefactors who have donated nearly $20 million to the AGSA since the 1970s. The Ramsay Art Prize alternates with the Adelaide Biennial.

Other entrants include Julia Deville and Pierre Mukeba. A dead giraffe in a bejewelled cabinet is the focus of Deville’s work, ‘Mother is my Monarch’, which is also on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Adelaide-based Pierre Mukeba was born in 1995 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was the youngest South Australian to enter the prize. His piece, ‘Ride to church’, speaks to his Congolese heritage.

Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos won the inaugural Ramsay Art Prize in 2017 with her work ‘The Long Kiss Goodbye’, a giant quilt that took her three months to create.