Surprised Arnhem Land teenager, veteran Indigenous artist claim wins at 2020 NATSIAAs – ABC News

An 18-year-old photographer from Arnhem Land has become one of the youngest winners in the 37-year history of the nation’s most prestigious Indigenous art awards.

Yolŋu woman Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs took out the multimedia category at this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in a ceremony broadcast online from Darwin.

“I’ve been coming to this ceremony for a very long time now, and to see my artwork being recognised is very shocking, but I’m very proud,” she said.

The teenager — who is also a children’s book author and a recent finalist for the Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year — won the honour for a poetry and video artwork she filmed on a bullet train in Japan.

Ms Stubbs was on a school trip when she made the artwork and was also mourning the recent death of her grandmother.

“You just got to sit there and reflect on everything that’s happened, and up to that point I’d been rushing, rushing, rushing and this was my chance to stop and actually think,” she said.

“My grandmother’s just died, I’m about to finish school and go out into the world, and what am I meant to do?

“Time sort of slowed even though I was going 300 kilometres per hour on this train.”

Judges praised the work for its intriguing perspective and humility.

There were 65 finalists in this year’s awards and artists from South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory dominated.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Ms Stubbs urged other young artists to express themselves through their work, instead of worrying about how it would be perceived.

“[Young people think], ‘I have to have a meaning or I have to do something that has impact,'” she said.

“The way that I always have found myself creating art is doing things that I love and trying to show people how I see the world.”

Veteran WA artist takes long-awaited top honour

The winners of the seven categories were chosen from a pool of 65 finalists dominated by artists from the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Wangkajunga and Walmajarri artist Ngarralja Tommy May claimed the major $50,000 Art Award for his piece Wirrkanja, in a unanimous decision by the judging panel.

The tin etching with enamel paint depicts the veteran artist’s country in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Wirrkanja is the major winner of this year’s NATSIAAs.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

“He draws his inspirations from stories of his people who have passed and also keep that story going,” said Lynley Nargoodah, a friend of Mr May who interpreted and spoke on his behalf.

It was welcome news for the artist, who has entered the awards numerous times.

“It’s been a long time coming, winning this major prize,” Ms Nargoodah said.

The judging panel said the pool of finalists was particularly high calibre, and drew special attention to emerging artists alongside the three winners younger than 30.

“We were united in our agreement [on] how excited we were at the mix of young and emerging artists whose work won the different categories, as well as the senior artists who are the masters in their own mediums,” said judge and Darwin-based artist Karen Mills.

“[The emerging artists] represented a very strong direction of the future going forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.”

The head of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, where the works are exhibiting, was similarly impressed, and said the institution’s board was considering buying 10 works instead of the usual four to six.

“It is always exciting when the artists get that call and certainly when they get a call being told they’re a winner, they love that,” MAGNT director Marcus Schutenko said.

“Being told that their work has been acquired by a major collection is also really exciting for them.

“There are a lot of emerging artists and early career artists who we think are quite spectacular this year, and we think that’s a higher focus than usual.”

Coronavirus pushes gallery online

While Ms Stubbs was able to attend the Darwin ceremony in person, Mr May — and most of his fellow prize-winners — were unable to because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It meant that for the first time since the inception of the awards nearly four decades ago, the ceremony took place online.

West Australian artist Ngarralja Tommy May took out the major prize for his piece Wirrkanja.(Supplied: Daniel Kelly)

The changes also prompted organisers to set up a virtual exhibition closely modelled on its physical counterpart.

“The two shows mirror each other quite exactly, it’s a virtual space that you’ll be able to physically move through,” MAGNT’s assistant curator of art Clare Armitage said.

“One of the most exciting things about developing the online show this year was thinking about how we might be able to do it for other exhibitions and continue to make shows more accessible.”

Brother’s death inspires top art award win – The Young Witness

A veteran desert artist’s drawing inspired by his brother’s death has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize.

Ngarralja Tommy May was announced the major winner of The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award on Friday for his work Wirrkanja.

It comes after May was repeatedly pipped at the post for more than 30 years, with the 85-year-old saying “I’m the winner at last”.

“I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said.

May said Wirrkanja country, near the Kurtal waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert, was flat with sand dunes as far as the eye can see

“It’s the country where I lost my brother. This is my country and my family’s country,” the Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man said.

“It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route (in Western Australia).”

The judging panel praised May for the exquisite beauty and power of his work, saying it was a “triumphant artwork by an artist at the height of his creative powers”.

Exhibition curator Luke Scholes says this years’ entries in the long-running art award continue to be both extraordinary and political.

“It is a reminder by artists that they have survived and that we, as Australians, we live on Aboriginal land,” he said.

Northern Territory artist Adrian Jangala Robertson won the general painting award with a work depicting his mother’s country titled Yalpirakinu.

The bark painting award went to Marrnyula Munungurr for her work Munguymirri.

South Australian artist Iluwanti Ken won the works on paper award for her ink-on-paper work titled Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting).

The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award went to Jenna Lee for a set of sculptures titled HIStory vessels.

“This work challenges the notion that Captain Cook discovered Australia,” the judges noted.

Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs won the multimedia award with Shinkansen, while Cecilia Umbagai won the emerging artist award with the painting Yoogu.

Australian Associated Press

Brother’s death inspires top art award win – Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser

A veteran desert artist’s drawing inspired by his brother’s death has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize.

Ngarralja Tommy May was announced the major winner of The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award on Friday for his work Wirrkanja.

It comes after May was repeatedly pipped at the post for more than 30 years, with the 85-year-old saying “I’m the winner at last”.

“I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said.

May said Wirrkanja country, near the Kurtal waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert, was flat with sand dunes as far as the eye can see

“It’s the country where I lost my brother. This is my country and my family’s country,” the Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man said.

“It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route (in Western Australia).”

The judging panel praised May for the exquisite beauty and power of his work, saying it was a “triumphant artwork by an artist at the height of his creative powers”.

Exhibition curator Luke Scholes says this years’ entries in the long-running art award continue to be both extraordinary and political.

“It is a reminder by artists that they have survived and that we, as Australians, we live on Aboriginal land,” he said.

Northern Territory artist Adrian Jangala Robertson won the general painting award with a work depicting his mother’s country titled Yalpirakinu.

The bark painting award went to Marrnyula Munungurr for her work Munguymirri.

South Australian artist Iluwanti Ken won the works on paper award for her ink-on-paper work titled Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting).

The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award went to Jenna Lee for a set of sculptures titled HIStory vessels.

“This work challenges the notion that Captain Cook discovered Australia,” the judges noted.

Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs won the multimedia award with Shinkansen, while Cecilia Umbagai won the emerging artist award with the painting Yoogu.

Australian Associated Press

Brother’s death inspires top art award win – Port Macquarie News

‘I’m more Australian than Captain Cook will ever be’ – Sydney Morning Herald

“It’s so peculiar to me that Cook is this symbol of national identity when he was not Australian. [He] was not Australian and would never have identified as one, he went back to England and didn’t have the best things to say,” Lee says. “I look around and see the people I know as Australian, all these beautiful multicultural [people].”

“I wanted people to have a conversation around this; I am more Australian than Cook will ever be, so let’s have a conversation about the symbols and the stories we are promoting.”

Detail of Jenna Lee’s HIStory Vessels (2020).Credit:Merinda Campbell

Identity is a theme in several pieces this year. West Australian artist Ngarralja Tommy May won the $50,000 Telstra Art Award for his work Wirrkanja. Judges described the striking black and white piece depicting May’s country, near the Canning Stock Route, as the reflection of an artist at the height of his powers.

A finalist in the NATSIAAs eight times, May, a Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man, draws on tin or wood using a knife or a pen.

“This work is Wirrkanja, it’s the country where I lost my brother, its jilji (sand dune) country and flat country,” May says. “There’s a jila there (living spring waterhole). It’s not far from Kurtal, over two sand dunes. It’s in flood time, the water runs down the jilji (sand dunes).”

Born in Yarrkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert, May has been making art for more than three decades and learnt his craft from his father and grandfather. His work is held in many collections including the prestigious Kluge-Ruhe Museum of Aboriginal Art in Charlottesville, USA, and locally at the NGA, Queensland Art Gallery and the NGV.

Ngarralja Tommy May’s Wirrkanja.Credit:Merinda Campbell

Traditionally announced at a busy time in Darwin’s calendar, running simultaneously with the Darwin Festival and the Darwin Art Fair, the pandemic meant this year’s awards were live-streamed around the country on Friday evening. They were judged by Donna Nadjamerrek, director of Injalak Arts, Darwin based visual artist Karen Mills and Araluen Arts Centre curator Stephen Williamson.

This year’s winners also include Adrian Jangala Robertson for the general painting award; Marrnyula Munungurr for bark painting; Iluwanti Ken for works on paper; Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs for the multimedia award and Cecilia Umbagai received the emerging artist award.

Artist Ngarralja Tommy May won the Telstra Art Award.

MAGNT assistant curator Clare Armitage said the NATSIAA works speak of many different and specific things. For Armitage, the main threads this year were ideas around resilience, generosity and creativity as a way forward.

You can see the finalists and winners works here.

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Brother’s death inspires top art award win – The West Australian

Aaron BunchAAP

Camera Icon Ngarralja Tommy May has won Australia’s top Indigenous art prize for his work Wirrkanja.

A veteran desert artist’s drawing inspired by his brother’s death has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize.

Ngarralja Tommy May was announced the major winner of The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award on Friday for his work Wirrkanja.

It comes after May was repeatedly pipped at the post for more than 30 years, with the 85-year-old saying “I’m the winner at last”.

“I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said.

May said Wirrkanja country, near the Kurtal waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert, was flat with sand dunes as far as the eye can see

“It’s the country where I lost my brother. This is my country and my family’s country,” the Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man said.

“It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route (in Western Australia).”

The judging panel praised May for the exquisite beauty and power of his work, saying it was a “triumphant artwork by an artist at the height of his creative powers”.

Exhibition curator Luke Scholes says this years’ entries in the long-running art award continue to be both extraordinary and political.

“It is a reminder by artists that they have survived and that we, as Australians, we live on Aboriginal land,” he said.

Northern Territory artist Adrian Jangala Robertson won the general painting award with a work depicting his mother’s country titled Yalpirakinu.

The bark painting award went to Marrnyula Munungurr for her work Munguymirri.

South Australian artist Iluwanti Ken won the works on paper award for her ink-on-paper work titled Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting).

The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award went to Jenna Lee for a set of sculptures titled HIStory vessels.

“This work challenges the notion that Captain Cook discovered Australia,” the judges noted.

Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs won the multimedia award with Shinkansen, while Cecilia Umbagai won the emerging artist award with the painting Yoogu.

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