Bold, painterly and conceptually rich, Vincent Namatjira's work has gained significant recognition in Australia and abroad. In 2015, his work was curated into the 10th
Mildura Palimpsest Biennale, and Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia, where he exhibited a series of paintings that reflect on his heritage and pay tribute to his great grandfather Albert Namatjira.
Vincent Namatjira. Courtesy THIS IS NO FANTASY + Dianne Tanzer Gallery. Photo: Alex Craig.
In 2015 and 2013 he was a finalist in the John Fries Memorial Award; in 2013 and 2014, in the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards; in 2013, the Outback Art Award, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery. His work is held significant collections including the British Museum, Artbank, and Flinders University Art Museum and Queensland Art Gallery.
In February Namatjira will open a much anticipated first solo exhibition with This is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Melbourne.
Your great grandfather, renowned watercolourist Albert Namatjira, is well known for his iconic images of Central Australia. I understand you never knew him. Tell me about your journey into art and decision to become a painter.When I was very young my mother passed away in a car accident and I was sent away from my family and community of Hermannsburg to live with a foster family in Perth. When I finished high school I came back to Hermannsburg. I spent time reconnecting with my extended family, I had to relearn my language, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, where I belonged, who I was.
During this time my uncles would say to me, ‘don’t you know who you are? Who your family and grandfather is?’ This was the first time I learnt about Albert Namatjira, about his story, my connection to him and to painting. I would go and watch my aunty work at the ceramic studio in Hermmansburg. She would build and glaze her clay pots, I would sit and watch her working on the different stages.
I moved around a lot during this time, between Nyapari in the west of the APY Lands before coming to Indulkana. My wife and I had young daughters to care for at the time, whenever we could we would both paint at Iwantja Arts. My wife helped me to get started with painting, she has been a painter for a long time, she taught me the traditional ways of dot painting. A few years ago I felt ready to try painting a picture of my grandfather Albert Namatjira, it all started from there really.