It is a name deeply imbedded in Australia’s cultural memory. Albert Namatjira’s (1902-1957) was a prolific and immensely popular watercolour landscape artist who was the most famous indigenous person of his time. In 1958, he was the subject of William Dargie’s Archibald Prize winning portrait. Now his great-grandson, Vincent Namatjira has won the 2020 Archibald Prize with his double portrait of himself with Adam Goodes: Stand strong for who you are. Portraits by Vincent have been Archibald finalists in four consecutive years; he was highly commended in 2018. Vincent’s painting does not share any stylistic similarities with his great-grandfather’s. By chance, Albert Namatjira’s style does find an echo in the Wynne Prize winner Tjorita by Herbert Parenoultja. The portrait of Adam Goodes clearly expresses sincere and strongly held opinions but it is an ugly painting. Some commentators have said it was bound to win in this year of BLM protests; that should be irrelevant.
The Archibald finalists were a mixed bag with some attractive portraits. In addition to Paul Newton’s Maggie Tabberer 2020, there is Lucy Culliton’s Soils for life, Jun Chen’s The art dealer: Philip Bacon, Tsering Hannaford’s Self portrait after Allegory of Painting’ and Nicholas Harding’s David Marr. There is a rather disconsolate portrait of Mr Albanese by James Powditch. The Packing Room Prize went to a bold self-portrait by Meyne Wyatt. My own prize for pretentiousness goes to Charles Mouyat’s Matt Kean.
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