Christian Thompson AO: Finalist for the 2021 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

31 Jul 2021

Congratulations to Dr Christian Thompson AO on being a finalist for this year’s Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards with the enchanting work The Meaning of Fire! The Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) exhibition captures the attention of the nation with an inspiring breadth of work from emerging and established artists.

“The Meaning of Fire’ is a continuation of my signature flower walls, in which the large scale, square-format photographs offer a portal to a different realm, the spiritual realm. I’ve arrived at this place, playing with many of the modes of contemporary art, abstraction, surrealism, and the metaphysical, where the figure becomes one with the natural world. Focusing the lens onto myself, I stare back at the viewer. The white cross-hatching over my face and hands embeds my body within the history of my Bidjara heritage. My visibly Aboriginal features are simultaneously adorned and obscured by native and non-native flora; smoke bush, king proteas, green leucadendron, pink and yellow geraldton wax, poached egg paper daisies, pink hakea, punctuated by gum and wattle foliage.

“The botanical constellation is a measurement of time, capturing a transient moment when the flowers are briefly in bloom. My family originally hails from Springsure, Charleville and the Carnarvon Gorge but we have been close by in Barcaldine, Central QLD for over a century. Every winter, my grandmother would say “the desert flowers are in bloom” and off I would go, marching into the bush to see the arid, semi-desert hinterland transformed into an ethereal wonderland. This beautiful gift from my Country and from my ancestors has stayed with me for life, and has grown in strength in my art. I look forward to going home soon, just as I have done for my whole life, to again be with the desert flowers of my traditional Country” explains the artist.

​Each year, Telstra NATSIAA sees an increasing variety of art forms and media collectively demonstrating the richness and diversity of current contemporary Indigenous artistic practice and the pre-eminence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices nationwide within the visual arts.

Watch the Winners Announcement live at 6pm AEST on Friday 6 August and then explore the interactive virtual gallery to see all of this year’s winners and finalists’ works after!

Image: Installation of Christian Thompson AO, The Meaning of Fire, 2021, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Northern Territory, Australia