The Art Gallery of New South Wales' Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize finalists for 2020 have been announced. And among the finalists we're most excited about is Gumbaynggirr / Bundjalung artist Otis Hope Carey - and his Wynne Prize-nominated work, Ngalunggirr miinggi (healing spirit).
The Wynne Prize is awarded annually to Australian artists for 'the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours, or the best example of figure sculpture'.
"I feel very privileged and honoured to be alongside such incredibly talented artists in such a prestigious arts award," tells Carey - also a professional surfer and father - who began putting brush to canvas five or six years ago. "I’m very proud of myself for everything I have achieved in such a small amount of time."
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Carey began painting Ngalunggirr miinggi (healing spirit) after his grandmother, a Gumbaynggirr woman, passed. "It’s about her going back into the ocean," Carey explains in a statement on the work.
"We call the ocean Gaagal – it’s a really important clan totem and holds a lot of healing elements for us.
"The whole body of work is about us healing as one, and us knowing she’s back with the ocean, back home."
The work's black backdrop represents the night sky. "A lot of the stars signify certain dreamtime stories," Carey says. "And it also represents the colour of our people with our black skin."
"The lines represent connection to country, the spiritual being – basically being connected to the earth. The dots are the struggles and the healing elements, reflecting the armour around my family. When I’m doing them, I think about my grandmother a lot, so the dots are like medicine. I always leave some gaps in my paintings, which are the past, present and future for me."
"Working on the past, healing the past; being in the present and working on the present; healing towards the future and making sure I don’t pass intergenerational trauma onto my children."
Carey's Wynne finalist work is part of a series centred on healing. "These paintings are my way of showing people that a healing process can be a beautiful process. I’d like to think they are healing other Indigenous people as well as healing our relationship with non-Indigenous people."
Winners of The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman will be announced on September 25, but Carey's focus is on the horizon."I’m looking forward to what the future is nurturing for me and my family and I can’t wait to get stuck into some larger scaled paintings."
See more of Carey's works via China Heights gallery.