Two South Australian artists – Vincent Namatjira and James Tylor – are among the 21 finalists for Australia’s richest young art prize, the Ramsay Art Prize 2017.
Run by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the national biennial prize for artists under the age of 40, received 450 submissions in its inaugural year with 21 finalists recently announced and the winner to be declared on Friday, May 26.
Finalist Vincent Namatjira, the great-grandson of Albert Namatjira, exhibited in the inaugural Tarnanthi in 2015 and as part of London’s British Museum exhibition Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation. He is nominated for his series, The Richest, where the 34-year-old painted seven of this country’s wealthiest people including Gina Rinehart and Anthony Pratt as he was interested in “who these people are and how they made their fortunes”.
Vincent Namatjira, Australia, born 1983, Aranda people, South Australia, The Richest (Gina Rinehart), 2016, acrylic on canvas, 91 x 67 cm; Courtesy of the artist, Iwantja Arts, Indulkana and THIS IS NO FANTASY + Dianne Tanzer Gallery, Melbourne.
“While I’m painting them, these figures become more real to me, more personal,” he says. “It feels like these powerful people are really here in the art centre with me, in my home community of Indulkana in the APY Lands. Their lives must be really different from ours – from my life and those of my friends.”
Ramsay judge and artist Nell says The Richest and Australia’s fascination with portrait painting “get their comeuppance in Namatjira’s suite of seven paintings”.
“Equally political and humorous, the awkward subjects arouse empathy against our better judgement,” she says of the series.
Vincent Namatjira. Image courtesy Iwantja Arts
Finalist James Tylor references his multicultural background (Kaurna, Maori and European) in his hybrid work. His 2016 piece Karrawirra Yerta (River Red Gum Country) explores the “political complexity of environmental management, land ownership and custodianship”.
“James Tylor is a decoloniser,” says Art Gallery’s curator of contemporary art (and Ramsay judge) Leigh Robb. “His 21st century daguerreotypes critically question Australia’s history of settlement and its effects on the cultural identity of its First Peoples.”
James Tylor, Australia, born 1986, Nunga (Kaurna) people, South Australia, Karrawirra Yerta (Ngarruwodli Whitewashed), 2016, Becqurerel Daguerreotype, 10 x 12 cm; Courtesy of the artist and GAG Projects – Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.
Art Gallery director Nick Mitzevich says the Ramsay Art Prize is a legacy project for gallery “that we hope will build confidence in Australian art, foster young talent and change the way young artists are valued in the canon of contemporary art”.
“With over 450 submissions, the Ramsay Art Prize entries were as varied as contemporary art practice itself – every possible medium and message were submitted,” Mitzevich says. “In this plurality, we are presented with a mirror image of Australian art right now.”
James Tylor, Australia, born 1986, Nunga (Kaurna) people, South Australia, Karrawirra Yerta, 2016, daguerreotypes, timber (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), burnt sheep bones, quartz, charcoal, red ochre, stone knife and gold paint, 40 x 150 x 10 cm; Courtesy of the artist and GAG Projects – Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.
All finalists will be exhibited at the Art Gallery from Saturday, May 27 until Sunday, August 27, 2017 with the winner to be announced when the exhibition opens. A $15,000 People’s Choice Prize will be decided by public vote.
Header image: James Tylor (left) and Vincent Namatjira (right)