Grace Kemarre Robinya of Tangentyere Artists has won the $10,000 Vincent Lingiari Art Award for her painting Raining at Laramba.
Chosen by this year’s judge Hetti Perkins, Ms Robinya’s painting was one of 26 finalists responding powerfully to the award’s theme Ngawa, Ngapa, Kapi, Kwatja, Water.
Raining at Laramba depicts country around Napperby Station, where Ms Robinya and her husband worked and raised their family.
Ms Perkins said the work “stood out as an unequivocal, elegant and profound statement about kwatye. It captures the dramatic vistas of rain in desert country and conveys the transformative and life-giving power of water”.
Ms Robinya used to live in the Laramba community, on Napperby, where residents are still forced to drink water that contains three times the level of uranium considered safe.
Born in Ntaria in 1942, she is an accomplished figurative painter whose works frequently feature her signature clouds with sheets of rain.
Her vibrant works for Tangentyere Artists powerfully evoke important life events, locations and contemporary life in the Alice Springs Town camps, where she lives today.
Of her winning work, she said simply, “It’s always raining, summertime, when stockmen mustering. Makes those hills look blue in the north. Raining, raining, all the time raining. Clouds are coming.”
Her work has been included in 55 exhibitions, and she has been a finalist in five significant awards, including the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
The exhibition opening at the Tangentyere Artists Gallery in Alice Springs last night is the third collaboration between Desart, the Central Land Council and Tangentyere Artists since they launched inaugural Vincent Lingiari Art Award in 2016.
This year’s theme asked artists from across Central Australia to reflect on the significance of water for their collective survival on their country.
“The scandalous situation in Ms Robinya’s home community of Laramba illustrates perfectly why we have seen such a strong response to this year’s theme,” CLC chief executive Les Turner said.
Hetti Kemerre Perkins, curator, writer and daughter of the CLC’s first director Charlie Perkins, shortlisted 26 of a record number of 47 entries.
The award was co-curated by Ms Perkins and Marisa Maher, curator and assistant manager at the Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre in Mparntwe/Alice Springs.
Ms Perkins said the artists’ response to the theme ranged from works that were overtly political, with their calls to stop fracking and memories of now destroyed landscapes and important sites and send an urgent message about the importance of water.
“The water underground and overhead, in soaks, rockholes and creeks is our lifeblood, an essential part of the ancient ecology that we are part of.
“This delicate balance cannot be tampered with and the NT and Australian governments need to sit up and take notice of the truth our people are telling them, and nowhere more clearly than in our art,” she said.
Congratulating the winner, Desart CEO Philip Watkins said “Grace’s work is evocative of all that brings joy with rain, its life giving force, and its cultural significance.
“Safe, clean water is a fundamental right, yet many communities continue to struggle for this.”
“All the artists’ works in this exhibition respond to the emergency and fight for water rights”, he said.
The members of the CLC voted for their favourite award entry during their August council meeting near Vincent Lingiari’s home community of Daguragu.
On Wednesday night, Timothea Palmer accepted the CLC Delegates’ Choice Award on behalf of her mother, Leah Leaman, from Vincent Lingiari’s granddaughter Rosie Smiler.
The painting of Ms Leaman, who works out of the community’s Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre, celebrates her love of fishing in rivers and waterholes, of wetland brolgas and bush flowers.
Her work Following the Waterways tells the story of a couple, “the last of their kind”, who “followed the waterways by foot all the way from here to the coast … with their beloved dogs, billycan, hook spear and rolled-up little calico swag, never getting lost.”
Desart member art centres and artists with strong links to the CLC region were eligible to enter in the Vincent Lingiari Art Award.
The exhibition runs until the 13 October and features a walk through gallery developed with Agency Projects at https://desart.com.au/vincent-lingiari-art-award/.
The award is supported by the Peter Kittle Motor Company and Newmont Australia.
It kicks off a festival of Aboriginal art and culture this week in Alice Springs, including Desart’s Photography Prize which opens this Thursday and celebrates its 10th anniversary.
9 September 2021