• 2021 Telstra NATSIAA finalist Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay artist Dennis Golding (Dennis Golding)Source: Dennis Golding
The longest-running and most prestigious Indigenous art awards has nominated 65 finalists for this year's awards.
Nadine Silva

24 Apr 2021 - 10:30 PM  UPDATED 24 Apr 2021 - 10:30 PM

Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay artist Dennis Golding couldn’t wait to tell his family when he learnt he was a finalist for the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

Mr Golding is one of 65 First Nations artists in the running for prizes presented by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

“I had the biggest grin on my face the whole day," he said.

 At the centre of his work submitted for the awards is his early life growing up in Redfern's 'Block'.

Like many other Aboriginal families, Mr Golding's grandparents had to adjust to the experience of urban living after moving to Sydney from the country for a better education and work opportunities.

“Fragments of my memory through the Victorian lace panel also shares my grandfather’s history and his return back to his Country in northwest NSW,” he said.

After winning a major NATSIAA award for a painting in 2012, Jilamarra artist Timothy Cook is again nominated this year for a work using Tutini poles.

“I feel pumpuni kuwa, I feel good about the Telstra award,” he said.

MAGNT Director Marcus Schutenko said the selection panel was forced to make “some very tough decisions” as they faced a competitive pool of 249 entrants.

Among the panel who spent three days deliberating was Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough, Wadjarri, Nhanda and Nyoongar artist Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, and National Gallery of Australia curator Gulumirrgin (Larrakia)/Wadaman and Karajarri artist Tina Baum. 

While the volume of high-quality submissions made their job challenging, the panel said it was “encouraging given the challenges that artists have faced over the past 12 months in creating work as the pandemic that limited travel, delayed the arrival of supplies, and had people in a state of worry.”

Ngugi finalist Elisa Carmichael, who’s no stranger to those challenges, was at her parent’s house on Quandamooka Country when she received the good news. 

“It’s really special to be able to come together with all the amazing artists across the country who are shortlisted and share the new works we’ve created over the last year,” she said.

“I feel proud to represent our beautiful Quandamooka country alongside my cousin Kyra Mancktelow who is also a finalist!”

Ms Carmichael said her process of weaving and stitching imagery “mirrors an ongoing process of piecing fragments of history and knowledge back together.

“It’s an act of healing through the process of mending and connecting the strands of time.”

The exhibition opens at MGANT on August 6 and will showcase a breadth of artwork mediums and stories from urban and remote places across Australia, including three dimensional, multimedia, paintings, bark paintings and works on paper.

“Whatever the style, whatever the medium, there is an extraordinary power and beauty in Indigenous art,” Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said.

Mr Penn said the awards’ profile has grown significantly since it began in 1984.

“I’ve seen first hand these awards grow from strength to strength on a global scale and feel truly proud to be part of such an important event.”  

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