This year’s exhibition of the Wynne Prize winners and finalists currently running at the Art Gallery of New South Wales features a large number of Indigenous artworks. Following a record number of 15 Indigenous landscape artists finalists – or more than a third – selected for last year’s Wynne Prize, this year’s collection sees Aboriginal voices dominate for the third successive year.
Most numerous are the vibrant artworks from artists in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in central Australia, which surprise and delight with their bold pinks, indigoes, oranges and reds, each depicting stories and messages of the local and traditional culture.
Longitude 131° is pleased to work with many of the Aboriginal art communities in the APY Lands and throughout the Northern Territory, including Ernabella Arts for its ceramics, oil paintings and traditional spears, Tjala Arts for its large-scale oil paintings, Maruku Arts at Uluru for traditional woodwork or ‘punu’ and Tjanpi Desert Weavers at Alice Springs for woven spinifex baskets and birds.
The Kungkarangkalpa or ‘Seven Sisters’ painting in the Dune House comes from a collaboration of four sisters from the ‘Ken mob’ from Tjala Arts at Amata in the APY Lands. Three of the Tjala artists, Barbara Moore, Naomi Kantjuriny and Mona Mitakiki were finalists in the 2017 Wynne Prize for landscape painting.
This year, the winner of the Wynne Prize Roberts Family Prize is Indigenous artist Wawiriya Burton, whose work also features at Longitude 131°, for her landscape in acrylics on linen called Ngayuku ngura (my country).
Two more artists who are finalists in the 2018 Wynne Prize have works at Longitude 131° are Yurpiya Lionel with her landscape Anymara and Tjimpayi Presley with her collaboration Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters story).
Over the past few years Hayley Baillie has travelled to the remote communities to meet with the artists and commission artworks for display and sale at Longitude 131°. The proceeds have become a significant source of income for the artists and go some way to ensuring the communities are economically sustainable, and that the local culture is nurtured through the practice and storytelling of the art. Longitude 131° runs regular artists-in-residence programs with local artists, to the delight of guests.
Baillie Lodges has also donated $100,000 to Ernabella Arts to support a dedicated ceramics technician and ensure the consistent supply of pots, and the community’s sustainability.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Australian art curator Anne Ryan says landscape has been the defining subject in Australian art since colonial times.
“We are only just catching up to the fact that, for Indigenous people living in remote and traditional country, that too is completely bound up in their identity, in who they are and how they fit into the world,” she said.
“Indigenous art getting onto canvas happened through moments like the Papunya Tula movement (of the western desert) in the 1970s. It has just grown incrementally since then and there seems to be this wonderful sense of energy and activity that’s happening in the APY lands in particular, helped along with contacts with the city, the art market and now, of course, it’s finally beginning to infiltrate further and further.
“We’ve been seeing these artists in the Telstra awards, we’ve been seeing these artists in exhibitions in South Australia, in Melbourne – Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery had a great show – and it’s about time they got into the Wynne.”
The $50,000 Wynne prize is awarded to the Australian artist who produces the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or the best figure sculpture completed during the preceding 12 months.
The Wynne Prize, along with the Archibald and Sulman Prize exhibitions are showing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until September 9, 2018.
The next Ernabella artists-in-residence takes place at Longitude 131° between September 24-29, 2018.