WE CAN BE HEROES : TELSTRA NATSIAA 31 2014
Tony Albert, Yidinui/Girramay language
Just when you thought it would be impossible for Tony Albert to win another major art award – he does it again. And it’s a another BIG one; the 31st Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Although there is not a lot between the winning works in this years competition Tony edged to the front with We can be heroes, 20 portraits of young Aboriginal men in variously defiant stance. From diverse cultures, they are presented as one people that share a common sense of dispossession. With targets painted on their chests these guys are the new warriors of Aboriginal Australia together in a work that will effect different people in different ways …. anyone who has been singled out, bullied or marginalised because they are somehow different will know exactly what Tony is on about. Its a work that also reflects a divisive turn in Australian history– We can be heroes carries carries an uncompromising but ultimately positive message for everyone who has need to be defiant in the face of injustice.
Tony is currently based in Sydney, New South Wales
The judges this year were Tina Baum, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art National Gallery of Australia, Clotilde Bullen Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Art Gallery of Western Australia, David Broker Director Canberra Contemporary Art Space.
Bark – Garawan Wanambi, Mitwatj Language
No doubt about it … Garrawan is one of the great masters of bark. He works with the expressive qualities of his clan’s geometric patterns as a medium for representing restricted sacred areas in Arnhem Land – the distinctive patterns and the lustrous surface of the painting make for an ethereal work that reflects light as it plays on the many moods of the water at a place where hot springs bubble up from underground to meet the incoming tides. Marrangu is a breath taking study of turbulence and calm in which Garrawan pretty much reinvents the process of cross hatching.
Garawan is based at Yirrikala, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Painting – Daniel Walbidi Mangala/Yalpaija language
Silver and gold pigments add a sense dynamism to Daniel Walbidi’s Wirnpa and Sons. They animate the stark bleached saltpans and the parched desert sand dunes of his homelands while recognising their beauty and importance to the lives of people who have inhabited these lands for thousands of years. The harsh patina is tempered by a delicate organic overlay that carries the stories of ancestral beings such as the jila (living water), rainmaker of the Great Sandy Desert. A great colourist Daniel’s intimate knowledge of country picks up elements of colour others would never see. There are elements of the satellite image in Daniel’s aerial view as he studies the the fabric of the land in great detail while eloquently incorporating a view both personal and more broadly cultural.
Daniel is based in Broome, Western Australia
Works on Paper – Nici Cumpston Barkindji language
Scar Tree Barkindji Country walks a fine line between serenity and dynamism. With enormous empathy and razor sharp eye Nici focuses her camera on degraded landscapes that survive and prosper in challeging circumstances. They are the lands upon which Ancestors have walked and continue to mark their presence. As such, Nici’s works acknowledge the contribution of ancient cultures and become a metaphor for the continuing struggle of Aboriginal people. Consequently the Scar Tree radiates an overwhelming sense of history and resilient beauty.
Nici is based in Adelaide, South Australia
Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award – Alick Tipoti Maluyligaw Ya (Kala Lagaw Ya) language
Alick’s Jaygasiw Usul ( Shovel nose shark dust trail relected in the heavens as the Milky Way) is inspired by a 19th century Torres Strait mask in te Bristish Museum. His contemporary interpretation uses fiberglass, shells, feathers and resin to present this most powerful and fearful of sea creatures as centre and master of the Universe. There’s more than a hint of bloke’s stuff going on here in a work work that represents the complexity of Alick’s Ancestral story through a metaphorical mask which is traditionally used by men.
Alick is based in in Cairns, Queensland
Youth – Kieren Karritpul Ngen’gi Wumirri language
Kieran is the first winner of the youth award . Growing up watching his grand mother, mother and aunties collect yerrgi for weaving baskets and mats Keiran has produced an ambitious large scale work that speaks to his matrilineal heritage with originality and innovation. Seeing the women’s stories through masculine eyes he brings a completely new perspective to the stories of his people. The young peoples works set a very high standard for this inaugural youth award and Kieren is undoubtedly an artist to watch over the next few years. His paintings and textiles are unique !
Kieren is based at Daly River, Northern Territory