South Australian artist Dickie Minyintiri has been awarded Australia’s oldest Indigenous art prize fora painting reflective of his rich personal history at the 28th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Minyintiri receives the $40,000 Telstra Award from NT Minister for Arts and Museums Gerry McCarthy in a ceremony tonight at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) for his work, Kanyalakutjina (Euro tracks…the Euro is a small kangaroo).

There were 327 entries for the NATSIAAs this year; 62 were pre-selected to hang in the finalists’ exhibition, which runs until Oct 30th.

Kanyalakutjina is synthetic polymer paint on canvas in the same intense style that won Mr Donegan the Award last year, and brought fellow Anangu finalist Hector Burton to Darwin as well. But Minyintiri “ working at the Ernabella Art Centre – has his own idiosyncracies reflecting on more than 90 years of walking his country, tracing the tracks of animals to kapi tjukula (waterholes) to drink; places where Wati (men) also went for inma (ceremonies).

Born at Pilpirinyi in Western Australia, Dickie Minyintiri is one of the most senior Pitjantjatjara men alive today, revered by his community as a senior Law Man, a highly respected Ngangkari (traditional healer), and significant artist. Dickie’s family came to Ernabella before its mission days, and his strong memories of this history are reflected in a work that tells the story of his life in pre-contact times, his position in ceremony, and how inma is used to protect the ancestral beings of his country.

In addition to the Telstra Art Award “ restored to its lone eminence this year after being chosen from the other prize-winners last year – $4,000 prizes were awarded in five other categories:
The Telstra General Painting Award was awarded to Papunya Tula Chairman, Bobby West Tjupurrula from Kiwirrkura in WA for an untitled work that depicts designs associated with the significant rockhole site of Tarkul, north of Mt Webb. This is the place where groups of Tingari men came in ancestral times to be burnt in a large fire.

The Telstra Bark Painting Award was awarded to Raelene Kerinauia from Melville Island in the NT for her work Kayimwagakimi Jilamara. Raelene’s winning bark painting represents her Yirrikipayi (Crocodile) Dreaming, and was painted using the traditional Tiwi body-painting comb, Kayimwagakimi.

The Telstra Works on Paper Award went to Dennis Nona from Badu Island in the Torres Strait for the second year in a row. His work Zuga Zug is an edgy and macabre depiction of an unnerving ancestral narrative revealing the artist’s mastery of the etching medium. Widely acknowledged as one of the most important Torres Strait Islander artists, Dennis also won the the Big Telstra in 2007.

The Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award was presented to 69-year old Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi from Elcho Island in Eastern Arnhem Land, for his classic work Banumbirr (Morning Star poles). Gali has used natural pigments, feathers, wood and string to create the
Morning Star poles, which is sacred to the Dhuwa clans of the Yolngu people.

The Telstra New Media Award which has gone to artists from Yirrkala for the past two years, was awarded to 44-year-old Torresian artist, Ricardo Idagi from Murray Island in the TSI, for his work Upi mop le “ Tail end man. Idagi lives in Melbourne and is a previous winner of the WA Indigenous Art Award for his turtle-shell masks. This time he’s used moving images inside a mask to bring it to life. This study in self-portraiture has an over-powering presence and offers a depth of personal and cultural revelation, according to the Judges.

This year’s NATSIAA judges were artist and academic, Dr Danie Mellor, SA curator and artist, Nici Cumpston and Judith Ryan, senior indigenous curator at the NGV.

Their comments continued:
This year’s overall winner, Dickie Minyintiri’s Kanyalakutjina, is a spontaneous and multi-layered expression of the artist’s profound ancestral relationship to country. The subtle application of colour, the gestural quality of the mark making and the incorporation of fluid linear elements make this a masterful work of art. The opacity of harmonious, pale pigments and the dynamic reiteration of ancestral tracks through country, create a shimmering surface that radiates energy and spirituality.

In arriving at our unanimous decisions, we felt that a number of other works deserve special commendation. These are George Tjungurrayi’s Untitled; Christopher Pease’s Bling; Djambawa Marawili’s Yathikpa; Dinni Kunoth Kemarre’s Chess set and Lucy Malirrimurruwuy Wanapuyngu’s Healthy food from the past

The Art Award’s new curator, Dr Christiane Keller said the installation had been a deliciously challenging process to hang an exhibition with 62 works of great diversity in size and medium, ranging from a very small paper sculpture to three meter wide acrylic paintings.