Vincent Namatjira / Western Arrernte people / Australia b.1983 / ‘Seven Leaders’ series 2016 / Arthur Roe Collection, Melbourne / ‘Prime Ministers’ series 2016 / The van Aanholt Family Collection / ‘The Richest’ series 2016 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 7 panels: 91 x 67cm (each) / Courtesy: The artist, Iwantja Arts, Indulkana Community and This is No Fantasy, Melbourne

Vincent Namatjira
‘Seven Leaders’ series | ‘Prime Ministers’ series |‘The Richest’ series 2016

On Display: GOMA, Gallery 1.2

Vincent Namatjira paints humorous portraits of important people. He is well known for his paintings of his great-grandfather, artist Albert Namatjira (1902–59), as well as his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, Australian politicians and the US Presidents, Donald Trump and Barack Obama. Although the artist lives in a tiny and remote community in South Australia, his paintings show an awareness of how politics affects his life.

For APT9, Namatjira’s artworks include three groups of portraits of influential Australians. His first series depicts the seven Prime Ministers who have governed the country during the artist’s lifetime. The second series features the seven tjilpi (senior law men and leaders) of his community, and the third series is of the seven richest Australians. These portraits highlight issues of wealth, power and influence in Australian society.

Vincent Namatjira was born in 1983 in Alice Springs. A descendant of renowned landscape artist Albert Namatjira, he is known for his idiosyncratic and often witty portraits of important historical and political figures.

As a child he lived at Hermannsburg in Ntaria country, south-west of Alice Springs, but, following his mother’s death when he was six, he and his older sister were sent to live in foster care in Perth. When he turned 18, he returned to Hermannsburg with his sister to search for their family. While living there, he watched his Auntie Eileen Namatjira, a leader of the celebrated Hermannsburg Potters, create art about her country and the family legacy.

Vincent Namatjira began painting in 2011, encouraged by his wife and father-in-law, who are both artists. Although he never met his great-grandfather, he drew inspiration from Albert Namatjira’s unique vision of country.

Before

Find out the names of the people in the paintings, and find photographs of them. Can you match the names to the paintings?

What characteristics of the people has the artist emphasised in the paintings?

Watch the short video Vincent Namatjira – Prime Ministers & Vincent Lingiari 2016. View it here: https://learning.qagoma.qld.gov.au/artworks/albert-and-vincent/

How does the video help you understand Namatjira’s portraits?

During your visit to APT9

Do you recognise anyone in these paintings?

This is the first time that these three groups of portraits have been shown together. Imagine a conversation involving the people in these paintings. What would they say to each other?

Compare

  • Vincent Namatjira’s series of portraits with Lisa Reihana’s characters in her video work. How do the artists make their characters recognisable?

After

Create a blind continuous line drawing of someone you know or someone in the public eye. Fill in the shapes of your drawing with colour to create an abstract portrait.

Contemporary context

How does Vincent Namatjira:

  • challenge ideas of the past?
  • provoke discussion about 21st century issues and concerns?

Personal context

How does Vincent Namatjira:

  • communicate influences on his life and experiences?
  • generate ideas from his own experiences, imagination or memories?
  • connect with the viewers experiences and/or expectations to construct meaning?

Cultural context

How does Vincent Namatjira:

  • reflect community interests through social commentary?
  • respond to cultural influences?

Formal context

How does Vincent Namatjira:

  • employ specific art elements and principles to communicate meaning?
  • communicate intentions using symbols, motifs or signs?
  • enhance the interpretation of the artwork through processes, materials and media?