Jukuja Dolly Snell's work 'Kurtal' has been selected as the overall winner from more than 290 entries and 65 finalists at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, Northern Territory, on Friday.
The artist, who is aged in her 80s, has been painting since the mid-1980s. She first exhibited in 1991, and held her first solo show in Darwin last year.
Jukuja Dolly told NITV News she was delighted to win the country's most prestigious Indigenous art prize.
"I'm very proud that I have won the Telstra Art Award with Kurtal. That's my country, the Great Sandy Desert," she said through interpreter Lynley Nargoodah.
A powerful painting, using strong and vibrant colour, 'Kurtal' depicts the spirits and stories of Jukuja Dolly's country.
"I'm very proud that I have won the Telstra Art Award with Kurtal. That's my country, the Great Sandy Desert"
Cara Pinchbeck, the curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, said the panel of three judges all loved her work.
“We were really drawn to it and it’s a simple composition in many ways but an amazing sense of translucency and luminosity that comes through the work,” Ms Pinchbeck said.
“There’s just something that pulls you towards the work and does draw your attention, and it’s an amazing, amazing painting by an artist that has been working for so long and great to see her achieve this award.”
Marcus Schutenko, the director of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, congratulated Jukuja on her win.
“It’s such a confident piece,” Mr Schutenko said. “If you read the story behind Jujuka’s work I think a lot of people will be stopping, looking, contemplating, and it’ll make it an even richer experience once you understand the story behind it.”
Jukuja will receive $50,000 in prize money.
Five other artists were also recognised at the awards, which were presented at a ceremony on Larrakia country in Darwin.
The Mimili community in South Australia's APY Lands boasted two winners with Betty Kuniwa Pumani winning the General Painting Award for her work 'Antara’ (Maku Dreaming). Robert Fielding was recognised for his multi-layered "Milkali Kutju" which means 'One Blood' in Pitjantjatjara language.
(Interactive map of where artists are based courtesty of Caddie Brain, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory)
“It’s an interpretation of we, as people, only look at one another,” said Mr Fielding. “We only look at each other in whatever form. So what’s below the flesh is, you know, one blood. We all bleed and breath and die the same.”
Twenty-three-year-old Josh Muir won the Youth Award for his digital print, which depicts the history of Buninyong, a town located just outside of Ballarat.
“It’s speaking about the impact of European settlers in the Gold Rush era and the Aboriginal people that were living in that area,” said Mr Muir. “It sort of covers the totems of Buninyong, the crow, Bungil the creator, and the reconciliation that we can hopefully work towards.”
Nonggirrnga Marawili from the Arnhem Land community of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory won the Bark Painting Award for her work 'Lightening in the Rock'.
Rhonda Sharpe from the Larapinta Town Camp in Alice Springs won the Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three Dimensional Award for her sculpture, 'Rhonda', which incorporated wool, cotton and feathers.
The 32nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory will continue until Sunday 1 November 2015.