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ARCHIBALD, WYNNE & SULMAN PRIZES
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ARCHIBALD, WYNNE & SULMAN PRIZES

By Diana Simmonds
June 7 2024

ARCHIBALD, WYNNE & SULMAN PRIZES, Art Gallery of NSW to 8 September 2024.

As is often the case, it’s the Wynne Prize whose finalists make the best overall showing at the annual paint fest known as the Archibald, Wynne & Sulman at the Art Gallery of NSW. Nevertheless, the winner is a stand-out.

The winner is Yirrkala artist Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu with an unusually large bark painting – at just over two metres by 1.5 metres – titled “Nyalala gurmilili”. It’s an arresting and beautiful work in a room full of dynamic works. Her palette is minimal – charcoal, grey and white earth pigments  – and the technique is an exquisite mix of finely wrought crosshatching and streams of fine striations that, on close viewing, are minute dots.

The artist, now 75, is a first-time finalist whose late sister won the Wynne in 2021. On learning of her success, Ms Yunupiŋu told AGNSW, “I am one of seven sisters. There are only three of us left now. The songs of this painting were given to me by our father, Muŋgurrawuy. It shows the songs of the seven sisters in the stars crying. Now I am crying. But this time with happiness.”

The winner of what’s traditionally seen as the big one – the Archibald – is Laura Jones, only the 14th woman in more than 100 years to win, as she pointed out in an emotional acceptance speech. Her subject is a personal hero: bestselling author and environmentalist Tim Winton whom she met after her exhibition Bleached. Those works came out of an artist residency on the Barrier Reef to study what was happening to the corals.

ARCHIBALD, WYNNE & SULMAN PRIZES

Speaking about her subject and the picture (oil on linen), Jones said, “I was stunned to discover a portrait of Tim had never been a finalist in the Archibald Prize. Then I found out why – he was a reluctant subject!”

She had watched his ABC documentary series “Ningaloo Nyinggulu, about the fight to save Ningaloo Reef. It was beautiful and terrifying. In a speech, Tim said the lack of action on climate change hasn’t been challenged enough in the arts.”

She went to Perth for the mandatory live face-to-face at a time when the Reef was suffering a fifth mass bleaching in eight years.

“Tim was warm and witty, she said. “We spoke about the historical relationship between printmaking and political activism. I approached his portrait as if it was a monotype, using thin brushstrokes and letting the paint bleed across the canvas like ink into paper.” And the result is full of feeling and very much Tim Winton.

ARCHIBALD, WYNNE & SULMAN PRIZES

BTW: A work of similar emotional depth is Angus McDonald’s “Professor Marcia Langton AO”.

Laura Jones is also a notable finalist in the Sulman Prize with a bold and luscious self-portrait titled “Sliding Doors”. The winner of the prize, however, is Naomi Kantjuriny, an elder of Tjala Arts in Amata on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara in South Australia.

Her work “Minyma mamu tjuta” is synthetic polymer paint on linen and depicts the mamu. She said, “Mamu are good and bad spirits, sometimes they hold scary stories that teach lessons to the grandkids, sometimes they are funny and joyful stories that make us all laugh. Mamu also protects us from illness and danger.”

As well as an artist, craftswoman, and hunter, Ms Kantjuriny is also ngangkari (traditional healer) specialising in women’s and children’s health. Ngangkari provide treatments for the mind, body, and spirit. traditional healer and she said, “I’ve been painting for 30 years, and I love it. I love what my art centre is and the support it provides for my community.”

 

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