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Yavuz gallery presents Desert Songs by leading Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira OAM

Rhiannon Clarke -

One of the leading contemporary art galleries in the Asia-Pacific has announced the premiere of a major debut exhibition, Desert Songs by Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira OAM.

Desert Songs explores bold and unapologetically personal paintings that allows artist Namatjira to dig deep.

The exhibition will be presented from 5-28 October and features thirteen new paintings and tackles the rich themes and concepts of leadership, power and legacy.

Desert Songs provides a platform for Namatjira to explore his own deeply personal histories through portraits of well-known figures that have shaped his life through art, music, and politics.

Through these bold and unapologetically political paintings, Namatjira explores what it means to be Indigenous in Australia, or the world.

The Yavuz Gallery presentation will include celebrated works from Namatjira including Vincent and Charles on Country and Desert Songs (Albert Namatjira).

Mr Namatjira's works reveal him to be a subversive portraitist who uses wit and heart to interrogate the complex colonial narratives implicit in Australia's relationship with the Empire from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective.

Artist Vincent Namatjira in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) with Charles on Country,

2022 Courtesy of Iwantja Arts. (Image: Jesse Lizotte)

Born in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and now based in Indulkana on Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, South Australia, Mr Namatjira is an acute observer of national and international politics.

"I started painting portraits because I'm interested in people and power, wealth and politics," Mr Namatjira said.

"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.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to utilise cheeky humour side-by-side with gut wrenchingly hard stories. Desert Songs is inspired by these stories."

Painting Vincent and Vincent 2022. (Image: Vincent Namatjira)

Founder and Director of Yavuz Gallery, Can Yavuz spoke about their excitement to host the exhibition.

"Yavuz Gallery is tremendously proud to present Desert Songs, a seminal body of work by one of Australia's most prominent artists," they said.

"This exhibition tells the stories of his community and all that they have endured, celebrating icons of Aboriginal music and deploying his signature wit to bring other familiar faces onto his Country."

Mr Namatjira's practice has gained significant recognition in Australia and overseas, In 2020, he 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 and the winner of the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize, Australia's most generous prize for artists under 40.

Mr Namatjira has been curated into major exhibitions internationally, including Un/learning Australia, Seoul Museum of Art, the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery and many more.

Royal self-portrait with dingo 2023. (Image:Vincent Namatjira)

Tony Albert spoke on Mr Namatjira from the book Vincent Namatjira by Vincent Namatjira, which has been published by Thames & Hudson Australia and will be available 31 October 2023.

"I don't want to dismiss this element of what I refer to as 'Guerrilla' humour, which is a tactic used in Blackfella art to make Whitefella's laugh at themselves," Mr Albert said.

"Let's be honest, as Aboriginal men we have much more luck in interrogating White nuances through a joke than by pointing the finger. This is one of Vincent's greatest attributes."

Ben Quilty also spoke about Mr Namatjira in the book Vincent Namatjira.

"Painting after painting, he places himself in a history that has been brutal to his Western Aranda people," Quilty said.

Yavuz Gallery will also present an artist talk featuring Vincent Namatjira in conversation with Executive Director of Artspace, Alexie Glass-Kantor, on Saturday, 7 October at 2pm.

The exhibition will coincide with a monograph published by Thames and Hudson and major survey, Australia in colour, presented at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2023 and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2024.

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