The winner of the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize 2019 is Vincent Namatjira with his work Close Contact (2018), a double-sided portrait in acrylic paint on plywood.
The winning work represents a new way of working for Namatjira, and a departure from his wall-based paintings on canvas. The artist made preparatory drawings directly onto the plywood, working from life and reference images, including E. Philips Fox’s painting Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay (1770). The plywood figures were then cut out using a jigsaw before Namatjira made his trademark bold and lively application of paint. Namatjira uses the double-sided painting as a strategy to explore the reversal of historical narratives of colonisation; presenting an unexpected conflation of past and present, coloniser and colonised, and the British invasion/discovery of Australia.
This year’s judges – Russell Storer, Deputy Director (Curatorial and Research), National Gallery of Singapore, Richard Lewer, contemporary artist, and Dr Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia – were unanimous in their appreciation of Close Contact, and feel that Namatjira’s bold new work represents the essence of the Ramsay Art Prize, which is now in its second iteration.
With the generous support of the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, the work joins the Art Gallery of South Australia’s (AGSA) permanent collection.
See the works of all 23 finalists of the Ramsay Art Prize held at the AGSA from 25 May to 25 August 2019 and vote for your favourite work of art in the People’s Choice Prize, a non-acquisitive cash prize of $15,000, supported by Lipman Karas. Voting closes 4 August 2019 at 5pm with the winner announced on 9 August 2019.