Totemic Trees, by Wollert artist Daen Sansbury-Smith, is a finalist in 2022 National Capital Art Prize. ​

By Max Davies

Wollert artist Daen Sansbury-Smith is a finalist in the 2022 National Capital Art Prize.

Sansbury-Smith’s piece ‘Totemic Trees’ is nominated in the first nations category.

A total of 29 Victorian artists are finalists in the prize, featuring a range of artworks from a variety of styles and mediums.

The Australia-wide competition has more than $45,000 in prize money up for grabs across three categories. The three major prize categories are open, first nations, and sustainability prize, with the winner of each receiving $15,000.

A panel of critics selected artworks from a field of entries from across Australia, with the Victorian finalists joining a national shortlist of 129 artists featuring a high quality and standard of work.

Sansbury-Smith said his artwork showed the silhouettes of two black peppermint eucalyptus trees.

The trees are totemic and symbolise ancestors whose presence still stands in his father’s country in north-east Tasmania.

Sansbury-Smith said his inspiration came from family and community stories of the trees. He said he wanted to highlight the values they symbolised.

“Going back to the Tasmanian countryside and seeing everything there, I’ve used charcoal and ochre with acrylic paint so I feel it’s like blending old and new techniques,” he said.

Sansbury-Smith said it was a good feeling to be included as a finalist in the prize.

“Just looking at some of the other work that has been included it’s at such a high level. For me to have an artwork selected alongside some of them is very rewarding,” he said.

“I’m kind of lost for words, I wasn’t sure about entering at the start and now to be selected is really an honour.”

Sansbury-Smith only became involved with art in the past few years and decided to take part in the competition after gaining exposure and becoming more well known in the industry.

His background is a Narungga/Kaurna and Trawlwoolway content producer, visual artist and founder of Adjadura Art – ‘My peoples art’ in the Narungga language.

Sansbury-Smith’s artworks are representation of Narungga/Kaurna and Trawoolwaway, Palawa, stories, art and culture. He does this by mapping ancestral memory and connection to country, sharing stories of pre and post-contact Aboriginal history and culture.

Daen Sansbury-Smith

The National Capital Art Prize was established in 2021 and is designed to support and showcase Australian artists through an annual national painting competition, while also presenting Canberra as a cultural hub.

The 2022 awards are awarded for a range of categories including the First Nations Prize for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists, Sustainability Prize and Open. Four artists will share a cash prize pool of $47,500.

National Capital Art Prize founder Robert Stephens said it was exciting to see the range of inspiring artworks on display.

“Several of Australia’s best-known artists, including previous Archibald finalists, have submitted works and some really brilliant pieces have been received from emerging new talent,” he said.

“The standard and variety of artworks is amazing. The judging panel really had their work cut out selecting the finalists.”

Category winners will be announced in early September.

To view the finalist artworks, visit For more information on the competition, visit

The public also has the opportunity to vote through the online people’s choice award, in which artworks will be displayed in a virtual gallery for the public to vote daily.

The winner of the award will receive $2500. Voting closes on September 11.