Yavuz Gallery is pleased to present Desert Songs, Vincent Namatjira’s debut exhibition with the Gallery.
“I believe in the power of art, the power of the paintbrush. I know that art can change lives – it changed mine – and I hope that art can change the world too.
Painting is in my blood – my great-grandfather Albert Namatjira changed the face of art in Australia. I feel his influence when I paint, especially when I paint our Country.
I started painting portraits because I’m interested in people, and power, wealth and politics. For me, portraiture is a way of putting myself in someone else’s shoes as well as to share with the viewer what it might be like to be in my shoes. I use portraiture to look at my identity and my family history.
Let me take you on Country, where the past and the present meet, where cheeky humour is side-by-side with gutwrenchingly hard stories.”
Namatjira is a leading Western Aranda artist and one of Australia’s most important painters. A subversive portraitist, he uses wit and caricature to interrogate the complex colonial narratives implicit in Australia’s relationship with Empire from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective.
Born in 1983 in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and now based in Indulkana on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, South Australia, Namatjira is an acute observer of national and international politics, painting wry portraits of well-known figures such as US presidents, Australian prime ministers, and the British monarchy. Often inserting himself or portraits of people in his community into these compositions, Namatjira fuses deeply personal histories and incisively political critique. His work is bold, humorous, and conceptually rich in its examination of the connections between leadership, wealth, power and influence.
Namatjira’s practice has gained significant recognition in Australia and overseas. In 2020, Namatjira was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in honour of his contribution to Indigenous visual arts. In the same year, he was the first Indigenous Australian artist to win the prestigious Archibald Prize. Namatjira was also the winner of the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize, Australia’s most generous prize for artists under 40. In 2021, Namatjira was invited to produce the site-specific Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. In 2022, Namatjira received a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship in recognition of outstanding talent and exceptional professional courage.
Namatjira has exhibited in major curated exhibitions, including 경로를 재탐색합니다 UN/LEARNING AUSTRALIA, Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2022); the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2018–19); Tarnanthi Festival, Art Gallery of South Australia (2017 & 2018); the TarraWarra Biennial 2016, TarraWarra Museum of Art (2016); and Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, the British Museum, London (2015).
Namatjira’s work is held in significant collections including the British Museum, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.
Desert Songs coincides with Namatjira’s forthcoming monograph published by Thames and Hudson and his major survey exhibition, Australia in colour, presented at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2023 and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2024.