A striking vision of outback Australia has been unveiled on the foyer wall of the MCA, painted by one of the nation’s most celebrated living artists. The 15-metre-long work titled Past-Present-Future has been created by Vincent Namatjira, who made history last year when he became the first Aboriginal artist to win the prestigious Archibald Prize for his portrait of AFL legend Adam Goodes.
This MCA commission, the largest work ever created by Namatjira, was originally due to be completed before last year’s Archibald win, in March 2020. However, due to restrictions on travel and concerns about potential health risks, the work had to be deferred until 2021.
The painting features seven figures: people who have been influential in Namatjira’s life personally, within his local community of Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara region of South Australia, or for championing First Nations rights in Australia. The portraits include Namatjira’s great-grandfather Albert; his late father-in-law and musician, Kunmanara (Jimmy) Pompey; bantamweight boxer Lionel Rose; AFL star Adam Goodes; land-rights activist Eddie Koiki Mabo; and an Aboriginal stockman, who represents the male elders of his community. The painting also includes a self-portrait of Namatjira holding the Aboriginal Flag, a motif that features in several of the artist’s other works, including his Archibald-winning painting, Stand Strong For Who You Are.
Namatjira says the mural “brings the outback to the big smoke”, and depicts First Nations men, who are too often vilified in Australian society, as respected leaders, changemakers and strong role models. The painting will be on display in the MCA foyer for the next two years.