Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.
The winners of the 2021 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) have been announced with a Western Australian artist taking out the top spot.
Pitjantjatara man Timo Hogan was announced as winner of the 2021 Telstra Art Award, collecting a $50,000 cash prize for his work Lake Baker.
Hailing from Tjuntjuntjara, one of the most remote communities in Australia situated over 600km northeast of Kalgoorlie in the Great Victorian Desert, Hogan is a member of the Spinifex Arts Project.
Whilst Hogan was unable to attend the award ceremony in Darwin at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), he tuned in via video link.
Accepting his award, Hogan spoke about the subject of his artwork, Lake Baker, sharing the story of Wati Kutjara Tjukurpa (Two Men creation line) and the Wanampi (water serpent) — a story told to him by his own father and the story he painted.
Hogan said the award made him “feel strong inside”.
“I’m happy for this prize and that people see this work is important.”
He shared the plan for his winnings — a four-wheel drive to go kangaroo hunting and visit family outside of Tjuntjuntjara.
Created with synthetic polymer paint on linen, Lake Baker was described by the judges as an artwork of “international calibre”.
“Lake Baker heralds Timo Hogan as a remarkably confident artist with talent that exceeds his age and experience,” the judging panel said in a statement.
“In a work of this scale there is nowhere for an artist to hide: Timo’s restrained use of paint, texture and form not only demonstrates exceptional artistic instinct, but also his intimate connection to Country.
“Lake Baker is a mediative, connected and assured master work by one of Australia’s most exciting up-and-coming artists.”
Over 240 submissions were sent to MAGNT for the awards, with 65 finalists decided in April. The judging panel included Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art Director Liz Nowell, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute CEO Dennis Stokes and Larrakia artist Denise Quall.
The 2021 Telstra General Painting Award was awarded to Bugai Whyoulter for her artwork Wantili (Warntili, Canning Stock Route Well 25).
Whyoulter, a Kartujarra woman from Kunawarritji in the Pilbara, took home $5,000 in prize money.
The judging panel described her creation as the “perfect example of the way an artwork can captivate the viewer without shouting for attention”.
It was noted that all three of the judges were drawn to the work.
Gunyuŋara-based artist Dhambit Munuŋgurr took home the Telstra Bark Painting Award for her artwork Bees at Gäṉgän. Described by the judges as “blurring the distinctions between ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ art”, Munuŋgurr’s artwork draws on conversations she shared with her grandfather.
The Telstra Works on Paper Award was awarded to the late Ms M Wirrpanda from Yirrkala, Northern Territory for her work Untitled.
Untitled was created by Ms M Wirrpanda in her last few months and was described as a “gift for us all”. The judges said the work felt “unconstrained by traditional artistic conventions”.
Hubert Pareroultja and Mervyn Rubuntja’s life-sized watercolour on silkscreen meshwork, Through the veil in time, was awarded the Wandjuk Marika 3D memorial award.
Taking home $5,000, the Mparntwe/Alice Springs artists depicted the famous West MacDonnell Ranges.
Judges praised the creation, stating it allowed them to be transported to the Central Desert to experience “Country through the eyes of the Hermannsburg School”.
The Telstra Emerging Artist award went to Quandamooka woman Kyra Mancktelow.
Taking home $5,000 for her work Moongalba 11, Mancktelow combined printmaking, textiles and etching to create a “haunting and ghostly work” that reflected on the painful legacies of colonisation, Christianity and assimilation.
“Kyra’s powerful and evocative work is a moving tribute to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families who were torn apart by missionaries during the 19th century,” said the judges.
Hailing from Milikapiti in the Tiwi Islands, Pedro Wonaeamirri was awarded the Telstra Multimedia Award.
Wonaeamirri’s creation, Jilarti – Live performance of Jilarti (brolga song), Pirmitiki (feather head piece), Imeuja (false beard), Tokwayinga (feather ball), Tjimirrikamarka (fighting stick), Tunga (folded bark bag), pulls together traditional performance and objects into one.
“By animating these objects through ceremony — both live and digitally presented — Pedro offers a powerful reminder to all of us that Aboriginal culture is a living culture, rich in tradition,” said the judges.
Supported by Telstra, the NATSIAA winners can be viewed virtually here.
By Rachael Knowles