Betty Kuntiwa Pumani takes out 50k painting prize

Betty Kuntiwa Pumani has won the 2019 Len Fox Painting Award for her work Antara.

Words: Camilla Wagstaff

Betty Kuntiwa Pumani has added the 2019 Len Fox Painting Award to her increasing list of accolades. With successive wins of both the 2015 and 2016 General Painting Award at the NATSIAAs, Pumani is being increasingly recognised for her startling use of vibrant red and contrasting whites with serpentine large-scale visionary compositions.

Pumani’s paintings depict her mother’s country of Antara, a significant ceremonial site north-west of Mimili community that is sacred for Anangu (people). The site of Antara holds many Tjukurpa (songlines) that cross the Country and has an important rockhole where women perform inmaku pakani, a dance ceremony related to the maku (witchetty grub) tjukurpa, to create enough maku and food for everyone.

“As a young girl, I would camp out at Antara with my mother and the other children,” says the artist. “She taught us the importance of Maku Tjukurpa, and how to keep Country healthy. She showed us that if we look after Antara, we look after ourselves, keeping our spirits strong.”

The Len Fox Painting Award is a $50,000 biennial acquisitive prize awarded to a living Australian artist to commemorate the life and work of Emmanuel Phillips Fox. The winner was announced at Castlemaine Art Museum by judge Geoffrey Smith, Chairman of Sotheby’s Australia and Castlemaine Art Museum manager Naomi Cass. “Betty Kuntiwa Pumani’s commanding composition Antara is a work of great power and beauty that invites us to engage, enquire and reflect,” says Smith.

A record number of entries were received for this year’s prize. From the pool of 190 works, 48 finalists were selected, including works by Angela Brennan, Jacqui Stockdale, Lyndell Brown & Charles Green, Robert Malherbe, Stieg Persson, Stephen Bush and Yvette Coppersmith.

The Len Fox Painting Award Exhibition exhibits at te Castlemaine Art Museum, Victoria, until 1 September 2019. Betty Kuntiwa Pumani exhibits in the group exhibition NGANAMPA WALYTJA – OUR FAMILY at Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, until July 16. Read more here.

Image: Betty Kuntiwa Pumani Antara, 2018. Synthetic polymer paint on linen 198 x 183cm. Courtesy: the artist and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.

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