Among the 63 finalists in the NATSIAA there are eight to 10 artists from the APY lands. It’s hard to be more precise because a place like Umoona (Cooper Pedy) has been linked with the APYACC, while Ernabella located on the APY Lands, is a fully independent entity, established in 1948.
The NATSIAA exhibitors include Yaritji Tingila Young, the artist whose work kicked off the controversy. We can take this as assurance that it is not individual artists who are being criticised, but the APYACC business model. When the management issues are sorted out, a new normal will prevail.
This year’s NATSIAA judges steered clear of controversy by giving the $100,000 Telstra Art Prize to Keith Wikmunea of Aurukun, for a large, painted sculpture, Ku’, Theewith & Lalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the Wandering Dog. It’s a vibrant, playful, sustained feat of wood carving that cries out: “Look at me!”
Julie Nangala Robertson took out the Telstra General Painting Award for Mina Mina, a work that casts a subtle veil across the landscape. Robertson is the daughter of the late Dorothy Napangardi, a previous winner of the Painting Award and the Telstra Prize. Aside from the delicate beauty of the painting, it’s encouraging to see the evolution of a talented second-generation artist.
Another irresistible work was Dhalmula Burarrwanga’s wanha, dhika, nhwai?, which won the Telstra Emerging Artist Award. Dhalmula looks back to a distinguished artist grandmother, Nancy Gaymala Yunupingu, but her subject is witty, secular, and universally relevant. The three words of the title are what Yolngu people say when they’ve misplaced their keys or their phone, or a similar ordinary-but-vital item. On four pieces of bark painted white, the artist has inscribed the black silhouettes of such everyday