Namatjira received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to Indigenous visual art and the community.
“I’ve done a lot of research into my great-grandfather Albert Namatjira’s story,” says Namatjira. “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. 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.
Art has changed my life, and I want to make sure that I am a good role model for my three daughters and also a strong leader and inspire the next generation of young Aboriginal artists. 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.”
Bold, painterly and conceptually rich, Vincent Namatjira’s work has gained significant recognition in Australia and abroad. Namatjira’s imagery calls on Australia’s colonial history, with recurring references to Captain Cook, the British Royal family and contemporary aspects of Indigenous life. Recent works reveal his growing interest in the contemporary discourse around international political issues. Namatjira’s observational works also chart his personal history and his investigatory search for identity.
“I’m interested in people and their stories, and how someone from today is connected with the past. I like to paint people who are famous, and paint them here in my community, painting them in the desert puts them into an unexpected place. 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. A sense of humour and a paintbrush is a powerful thing.”, says Vincent Namatjira.
Namatjira’s most recent achievements include winning the $100,000 acquisitive Ramsay Art Prize, Art Gallery of South Australia 2019 and receiving the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Foyer Wall Commission 2020. Namatjira was the first Australian Indigenous artist to have a solo show at the prestigious Art Basel Miami Beach 2018.
Namatjira’s works have been curated into major institutional shows including the British Museum, London, Asia Pacific Triennial QAGOMA, Brisbane, TarraWarra Biennial, Victoria, Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, AGSA, Adelaide. He has exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel Miami Beach, Sydney Contemporary and Art London.
Namatjira has been a finalist multiple times in the Archibald Prize, the Ramsay Art Prize, the Telstra award and the John Fries Memorial Award. His works are held in significant institutional collections including the British Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, Bendigo Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art.