Image credit: Mark Sherwood

We’re proud to support the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to announce the winners of this year’s Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (Telstra NATSIAA).

The Telstra NATSIAA is the richest art awards in Australia, with winning artists sharing in a total of $190,000 (previously $80,000) and MAGNT funds for acquisition into the Telstra Collection standing at $50,000 annually. We have recently renewed our partnership with MAGNT for another three years, extending our sponsorship to over three decades.

From the 63 finalists selected for the 2022 NATSIAA from a total of 221 entries, the winners have created powerful works that explore history and cultural identity as well as demonstrating technical virtuosity at monumental scale.

To see all the winning 2022 Telstra NATSIAA artworks, visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory’s virtual gallery.

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Telstra CEO Andy Penn says the awards have again showcased First Nations artistry at its highest level. “Congratulations to Margaret Rarru Garrawurra on her incredible work that connects us with the cultural history of the Yolŋu people, and to all the 2022 Telstra NATSIAA winners who have once again delivered extraordinary work across a broad range of mediums.

“Telstra is proud to have supported the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards for over 30 years, celebrating both emerging and distinguished Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Now as Australia’s richest art awards, we hope it will further attract a wide range of talented First Nations artists with a diversity of artistic talent to enter their works and share their unique Australian stories.”

This year, you can also listen to the stories of artists Kent Morris, Gail Mabo and Tyrown Waigana as they introduce and discuss their artworks.

Telstra Art Award

Credit: Margaret Rarru Garrawurra, Dhomala (pandanus sail) 2022, pandanus, kurrajong, bush dyes, 278 x 245cm. Courtesy of the artist and Milingimbi Art and Culture. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Margaret Rarru Garrawurra, for her work Dhomala (pandanus sail) 2022

Margaret Rarru Garrawurra was born in Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island). Today she lives on her mother’s Country of Laŋarra (Howard Island) and at Yurrwi / Milingimbi, both off the coast of Northeast Arnhem Land.

Dhomala (pandanus sail) references both the artist’s cultural identity, as well as the historical relationships that endure between Yolŋu people, and the people of modern-day Indonesia.

Rarru Garrawurra’s ambitious weaving in Dhomala (pandanus sail) has been rendered using a mixture of natural dyes to achieve deep red, black, orange, and yellow. Dhomala embodies the time-consuming processes of harvesting pandanus and colours, as well as processing materials and weaving. Each of these stages of production are as important as the other.

Telstra General Painting Award

Credit: Betty Muffler, Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country) 2021, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 167 x 198cm. Courtesy of the artist and Iwantja Arts. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Betty Muffler, for her work Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country) 2021
Indulkana, SA

Betty Muffler’s Ngangkari Ngura is characterised by a subtle build-up of muted and monochromatic designs. This soft colour palette has become the artist’s signature and is immediately recognisable.

Muffler started painting in her late seventies and was judged best emerging artist at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in 2017. Receiving the Telstra General Painting Award just five years later, in 2022, acknowledges her meteoric trajectory and deserved rise to fame as an artist.

Muffler’s intuitive mark-making is imbued with story and layers of complex, cultural knowledge. The artist’s deep reverence for Country is palpable. As a painting, Ngangkari Ngura is expertly refined. The repetition of concentric circular designs and linear striations are both elegant and complex.

Telstra Bark Painting Award

Credit: Ms D. Yunupiŋu, Yunupiŋu – The Rock 2021, earth pigments and recycled print toner on stringybark, 217 x 98cm. Courtesy of the estate of Ms D. Yunupiŋu and Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Ms D Yunupiŋu, Yunupiŋu – The Rock 2021
Yirrkala, NT

The judges offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Ms D Yunupiŋu, and to the whole community at Yirrkala. We acknowledge this immense loss that continues to be felt by everyone whose life she touched.

The lady who paints mermaids had a short, but impactful career as a painter. Working in a distinctly lyrical and figurative style, Ms D Yunupiŋu draws on familial iconography to tell the story of her spiritual conception as a mermaid.

This slender bark has been whimsically rendered using a combination of naturally occurring ochres in cream, white, and black; as well as synthetic pigments drawn from recycled printer cartridges to create a brilliant and arresting array of fuchsia, pink and magenta tones.

The background of the composition is layered and filled with delicate sea creatures and stars, from which four bold mermaids emerge. Positioned in Embargoed | page 4 front of an immovable rock, the bodies of the mermaids appear ghost-like, overlapping and entwined with one another.

Telstra Works on Paper Award

Credit: Gary Philip Lee, Nagi 2022, oil pastel and pencil on digital print, 40 x 28cm. Courtesy of the artist. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Gary Lee, Nagi 2022
Garramilla / Darwin, NT

Nagi emanates tenderness and affection. This poignant and intimate depiction of Lee’s grandfather – Juan (John) Roque Cubillo – is a culminating work in this artist’s career.

By reclaiming the historic photographic archive Lee firmly reorients it in the present and personal realm. This work on paper demonstrates a subtle use of mark-making with oil pastel and pencil to adorn the portrait of his grandfather.

These embellishments evoke a sensory and tactile quality to the work. Softly coloured gardenias add another sensory component with the suggestion of a scented halo which softly frames the subject.

Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award

Credit: Bonnie Burangarra and Freda Ali Wayartja, An-gujechiya 2021, burny vine (Malaisia scandens), bush cane (Flagellaria indica), kurrajong (Brachychiton diversifolius), 64 x 280 x 61cm. Courtesy of the artist and Maningrida Arts & Culture. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Bonnie Burangarra and Freda Ali, An-gujechiya 2021
Yilan, NT

This sophisticated sculpture is an exemplar of contemporary Indigenous fibre practice. It exudes ingenuity, technical excellence and a commitment to the slow-paced multifarious stages of fibre art production.

The artists’ command of the natural fibres with which they work is noteworthy, as well as their capacity to collaborate.

This an-gujechiya is simultaneously a contemporary work of art and a form of cultural continuity. In selecting this award, the judges acknowledge the importance of fibre production in contemporary Indigenous art practice.

Telstra Multimedia Award

Credit: Jimmy John Thaiday, Beyond the lines 2022, single channel HD video: 16:9, colour, sound, 5:22 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Erub Art

Winner – Jimmy John Thaiday, Beyond the lines 2022
Erub, Torres Strait, QLD

This powerful and emotive work explores the interconnection between the artist to his Country as exemplified by sea, land, sky and wildlife (in the form of the waumer, the frigate bird).

This meditation on the interconnectedness of life, land and sea examines relationships and correlations between naturally occurring patterns, formations, and movements.

Beyond the lines is technically accomplished and masterful. Its refined visual rhythm is carefully paced and combines a compelling use of wide lens with close-up footage. Its thoughtful use of sound is also noteworthy.

Telstra Emerging Artist Award

Credit: Louise Malarvie, Pamarr Yara 2022, earth pigments on canvas, 125 x 130cm. Courtesy of the artist and Waringarri Arts. Image Mark Sherwood

Winner – Louise Malarvie, Pamarr Yara 2022
Kununurra, WA

This alluring painting conveys a layered granular texture suggestive of the earth being swept, shifted, and redistributed by the dispersal of rain and floodwater.

This subtle yet commanding work illustrates Malarvie’s capacity for strong composition and her deftness of earth pigment application, which inherently contain the muted colours of her Country.

Her composition simultaneously conveys nuanced and distinctive features of the land as well as the vastness and immense scale of the Great Sandy Desert.