A photograph of Vincent Namatjira's Foyer Wall Commission for the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2021.
The Circular Quay Foyer Wall Commission is an ongoing series of temporary site-specific works commissioned annually for the Museum’s Circular Quay entrance. Each year, an Australian artist creates a new work on the 15-metre-long wall, responding to the unique dimensions, location and history of this site.
In P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future), Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira has assembled 7 figures significant to his life and practice in a large-scale ‘heroes narrative’. The work is semi-autobiographical – the artist states that each of the men represented on the wall have inspired him, and remind him of who he is.
Namatjira has painted his father-in-law, Kunmanara (Jimmy) Pompey on the far left, alongside an image of a stockman on a horse. Aboriginal stockmen across Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory were the backbone of the late 19th and early 20th-century pastoral movement and worked without pay in difficult conditions to herd livestock.
Namatjira has also depicted Adam Goodes – the AFL footballer who called out racism within the Australian football code – running down the foyer wall stairs, as well as Lionel Rose, the first Aboriginal boxer to win a world title, and Eddie (Koiki) Mabo, leader of the land rights campaign that overturned the myth of terra nullius (unoccupied land) in Australia. Finally, Vincent has painted his great-grandfather, artist Albert Namatjira, sitting with his arm on the window of his ute, while Vincent himself stands atop the roof of the vehicle, motioning to the harbour beyond the entrance of the MCA.
The artist says, “This image is me pointing out to the Sydney Harbour, and I’m holding the Aboriginal flag. Here, the self-portrait brings the past and the present together, since I’m standing on the roof of my great-grandfather’s famous green truck. It’s past and present, and then pointing forward is like looking to the future; a strong, hopeful future for Indigenous Australians. The Aboriginal flag for me represents pride, resilience and recognition.”
The artist would like to express his gratitude to his friend and colleague Eric Barney and Iwantja Arts staff for their assistance with the production of this artwork.