Third year UTS journalism student with an interest in culture, education and social justice. Tweet me @TallulahMT.
A record 18 out of the 46 finalists – more than a third - in the 2018 Wynne Prize are artworks by Indigenous artists, including this years winner, Yukultji Napangati.
This is the third successive year that works by Aboriginal artists have made up a significant proportion of entries, and taken out the $50,000 prize.
Curator of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize 2018 Exhibition Anne Ryan said the prize for landscape painting in Australia, in this country, is all the poorer without Indigenous representation, and we are fortunate in the fact that so many artists are practicing their work and getting their work out there.
The Wynne Prize, announced last week, is awarded to the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or figure sculpture by Australian artists, completed within the preceding year.
This year's finalists were also eligible for the inaugural Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Prize worth $10,000, won by 95-year-old Wawiriya Burton, for her painting, Ngayuku ngura (my country).
Unable to attend herself, Burton’s granddaughter, Sally Scales, accepted the award on her behalf.
“As an Indigenous artist, she would be so happy that there is now a prize celebrating Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders,” Ms Scales said.
But last year, eminent Australian artist, John Olsen, sparked controversy when he questioned whether Wynne Prize winner, Betty Kuntawi Pumani’s, Antara, was truly a landscape painting, claiming it existed in "a cloud cuckoo land.
However, Tim Olsen, director of Olsen Gallery and son of John Olsen, said his father’s comments were misconstrued by the media “to portray John as having sour grapes”.
“He doesn’t have any negativity towards Indigenous art, other than to hang it next to western art is a difficult thing to put them together because one’s a dreamtime and the other is a kind of romance,” Mr Olsen said.
Olsen’s painting The Tree of Life is a Wynne prize finalist this year and has been hung in the same room as many works by Indigenous artists which, according to his son, is a great honour.
Responding to this curatorial decision, Ms Ryan noted the importance of not separating Indigenous and non-Indigenous artworks.
“It’s actually a very positive thing … and I encourage all our audiences to look at these works in conjunction with each other and think about what they share as well as how they are different,” she said.
The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize 2018 Exhibition runs from May 12 to September 9 at the Art Gallery of NSW.