Vincent Namatjira Wins The $100K Ramsay Art Prize For ‘Startling’ Self-Portrait

Vincent Namatjira has won the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize with his double-sided self portrait, depicting himself on one side and Captain James Cook on the other.

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Namatjira will take home a cool $100K as his prize, with the panel of experts unanimously awarding the piece, titled ‘Close Contact’ – a look at colonisation and the concept of heroic portraiture.

Credit: Vincent Namatjira / AGSA
Credit: Vincent Namatjira / AGSA

He said Close Contact was inspired by carnival cutouts, and hopes winning the Ramsay prize will lead to more opportunities for young Indigenous artists.

“Winning this prize means a lot to me and it will hopefully create more opportunities for me to continue to make more ambitious work and to share my practice with new audiences. I also hope to use my position to create opportunities for other young artists in remote Indigenous communities. I can honestly say that becoming an artist turned my life around and now I want to be a leader and a role-model for the next generation of young artists.”

Judge Russell Storer told NITV the self-portrait presented a major shift in Namatjira’s practice.

“Cook is represented as a persistent shadow of the artist showing how Indigenous and white Australia are inextricably linked by history, but also in the present. Vincent’s thumbs-up stance expresses resilience and humour, crucial strategies for resistance and survival.”

The work will now become part of Art Gallery of South Australia‘s permanent collection, and will be on display with other finalist works until August 25.

Namatjira is the great-grandson of famous painter Albert Namatjira, a pioneer of contemporary Indigenous art. He currently works from Iwantja Arts Centre in the remote community of Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands, which are in northwest South Australia.