Vincent Namatjira awarded an OAM

Celebrated South Australia-based artist awarded for his service to Indigenous visual arts.

Words: Donnalyn Xu

Vincent Namatjira has received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in honour of his great contribution to Indigenous visual arts. The South Australian artist is currently based in Indulkana, and paints for Aboriginal arts centre Iwantja Arts. He is represented in Melbourne by THIS IS NO FANTASY.

Namatjira’s art often features bold and painterly portraits of humorous characters, satirically exploring Australia’s colonial history with references to Captain Cook, the British Royal family, and contemporary Indigenous life. “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,” he says. “A sense of humour and a paintbrush is a powerful thing.”

As the great-grandson of renowned landscape painter Albert Namatjira, Vincent carries his family legacy as a celebrated artist. His most recent achievements include the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize in 2019, and the Sydney Foyer Wall Commission in 2020.

“I feel proud to accept this award and continue the Namatjira legacy as important artists and strong, proud representatives for our people and our country,” he says. “I really hope that he’d be proud of my achievements and that he’d appreciate my paintings even though they’re very different from his watercolour landscapes.”

Although he paints with influence from his great-grandfather, he is an acclaimed artist of his own. His recent works speak to his growing interest in international political issues, as well as his own personal history and search for identity. “I’ll keep using my practice as a platform to make sure there’s a remote Indigenous voice as part of the conversation — that’s really important to me.”

Image: Vincent Namatjira in his studio. Courtesy: the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne.

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