Arts / Culture

Hear from the Wynne, Sulman and Archibald Prize 2024 winners on the stories behind their prize-winning paintings

This year's Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize winners on the stories behind their prize-winning paintings

When Sydney artist Laura Jones was a young girl growing up in Kurrajong, at the base of the Blue Mountains, she dreamed of being an artist.

Last week, the fourth-time Archibald finalist and 2024 Sulman Prize finalist was announced as the winner of the Archibald Prize 2024 for her portrait of author and environmental activist Tim Winton.

As only the 12th woman to win the prize since its inception in 1921, Jones said that she hoped she would inspire more girls to pursue a career in the visual arts.

“I’m sorry if I seem nervous,” Jones said humbly as she accepted the country’s most prestigious portrait prize. “It’s because I am. I never expected to be the winner of the Archibald Prize.”


Laura Jones, 'Tim Winton', oil on linen, 198 x 152.5 cm


Jones first met Winton in 2017 while doing environmental advocacy work on the Great Barrier Reef. She later sent him a letter requesting a sitting for a portrait. Despite a career spanning four decades, and over 30 books, it’s the first time the dual Miles Franklin Award-winning author has been painted for the Archibald.

"I have to admit that I’m a very reluctant sitter, but I had seen Laura’s paintings of the Great Barrier Reef coral gardens, including her beautiful and tragic depictions of coral bleaching, so I was a little more curious and open than usual," Winton said, upon hearing of Jones’ win.

"He said that he looks like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders," Jones said of Winton’s opinion of his portrait. “He does. And we all do.”


Naomi Kantjuriny, 'Minyma mamu tjuta', synthetic polymer paint on linen, 197 x 153.5 cm


The winner of the Wynne Prize 2024 is Yolŋu elder and artist Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory for her painting Nyalala gurmilili, one of the largest bark paintings ever produced and the first to be awarded the Wynne Prize. Yunupingu is the daughter of renowned artist Mungurrawuy Yunupingu.

After hearing of her win, Yunupingu said in a video message: “The songs of this painting were given to me by our father, Mungurrawuy. It shows the songs of the seven sisters in the stars crying. Now I am crying, but this time with happiness.”

The $50,000 Wynne Prize is Australia’s oldest art prize for painting or sculpture depicting the Australian landscape.

First-time Sulman finalist, APY community Elder Naomi Kantjuriny was awarded the $40,000 Sulman Prize for her work Minyma mamu tjuta. The work, a depiction of shapeshifting spirits that are both good and evil, tells the story of the mamu.

“Mamu are good and bad spirits, sometimes they hold scary stories that teach lessons to the grandkids, sometimes they are funny and joyful stories that make us all laugh,” Kantjuriny said.


Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu, 'Nyalala gurmilili', natural pigments on bark, 263 x 154 cm


The Sir John Sulman Prize is judged by a guest artist each year and awarded to the best subject or genre painting or mural project.

“From an outstanding collection of finalists, Naomi Kantjuriny’s  Minyma mamu tjuta reached out to me repeatedly during the judging process,” said Sydney artist Tom Polo, this year’s Sulman Prize judge. “The dynamism within her composition and bold use of black and white to depict mamu made this work one of conviction, and a joy to return to.”

This year marks the first time since 2016 that the Archibald, Sulman and Wynne prizes have all been won by women.


The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2024 runs from June 8–Sep 8 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Stay inspired, follow us.