The tendency for landscape art prizes like the Wynne and Tasmania’s rather newer Hadley’s Art Prize to be dominated by Aboriginal artists’ work seems self-perpetuating. Their unique relationship with Country serves to justify that selection; for remote artists surely have the power to add myth and meaning to bare landform.

Now Hobart’s Hadley’s Art Prize has chosen 12 Aboriginal artists – more than a third of its finalists – and handed the munificent $100,000 first prize to Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin from Mimili Maku Art Centre in the APY Lands. Her winning work, ‘Antara‘, tells the Witchetty Grub Story, as Goodwin herself explained through a translator: “The Witchetty Grub story is the main [story], it’s truly huge, it’s a big ceremony. It’s a very old storyline from a long time ago, and I was taught about it when I moved to Mimili as a young girl. Now I look after it and teach the children about it, the Antara story.”

The judges – Waanyi multimedia artist Judy Watson, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s head curator of Australian art, Wayne Tunnicliffe, and the Tasmanian Museum and the Art Gallery’s senior curator, Mary Knights, who was formerly at Irrunytju Art Centre in the Desert – praised Antara as “an incredibly resolved work … The colour palette is fascinating – the colours push and pull across the painting. The work generates movement. You can imagine the artist singing; it’s almost like a performative work. There is a diversity of brushstrokes and mark-making in a distinctive, raw, and energetic way. This powerful painting is full of life”.

Also through to the Hadley’s final were Michelle Holmes with a classic flower scene from Ampilawatja, Alice Guiness with a surprising ‘Law Ground‘ from Juluwarlu in the Pilbara, Umatji Tanya Tjapalyi, another star from Mimli Maku, with a subtle brown study telling ‘Her Mother’s Story‘; and the amazing Bugai Whyoulter’s explosive ‘Wantili‘ representing Well 25 on the Canning Stock Route. Alec Baker and Katjarra Butler presented familiar works.

The Hadley’s Art Prize originated in 2017 when Tasmanian philanthropists, Don Neil and Annette Reynolds, who own the 1834 Hadley’s Orient Hotel that hosts the exhibition, put up the money. A series of events will be held there as well during the exhibition’s run until 21st August.

Non-Indigenous finalists included Ken Done, Pat Brassington, Max Bowden, Jane Burton and Catherine Woo.