The Lester Prize Main Awards exhibition will be held at The Art Gallery of Western Australia from 22 September to 26 November 2023.

2023 Finalists: ⁠

Katty Adano (WA) • Louise Ernestine Anders (SA) • Rita Attwood (VIC) • Phil Barron (WA) • Revee Bendixen (VIC) • Alycia Bennett (SA) • Stephen Brameld & Jay Staples (WA) • Ian Chapman (NSW) • W.H. Chong (VIC) • Mark Chu (VIC) • Joshua Cocking (WA) • Sophie Corso (SA) • Greg Creek (VIC) • Christina Darras (VIC) • Angie de Latour (VIC) • Natalie de Rozario (WA) • Julia Donney (NSW) • Jane Ericksen (QLD)⁠ • Tarryn Gill (WA) • Rachel Grove (VIC) • Minjung Kang (WA) • Bahman Kermany (NSW) • Kate Kurucz (SA) • Nerissa Lea (TAS) • Kelly Maree (NSW) • India Mark (NSW) • Ali Marshall (QLD) • Effie Mandalos (VIC) • Savannah Matthews (WA) • Anna Nazzari (WA) • Sarah Paton (WA) • Cameron Richards (WA) • Monica Rohan (QLD) • Charlotte Ruth (NSW) • Khashayar Salmanzadeh (VIC) • Natalie Scholtz (WA) • Robert Shepherd (NSW) • Oliver Stokes Hughes (NSW) • Liz Stute (VIC) • Brooklyn Whelan (QLD)

Winner — $50,000 Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture

Winner — $20,000 Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize | $10,000 Barton Family Foundation Installers' Prize | Highly Commended Prize winner

Tarryn Gill, Limber (self-portrait in relief), 2023. Textiles on board, 90 x 65 cm. 

Judges comments, provided by Alan R. Dodge AM, Gina Fairley, and Emma Bitmead:

Tarryn Gill’s portrait Limber (self-portrait in relief) demonstrates a resolved artistic practice through its confidence of making and visual language. The work uses materials powerfully to present a harmonious bodily and gestural portrait. Confined within the picture frame, the figure folds in on itself, creating an arresting central vortex that pulls the viewer in. The eye emerges with a sense of mystery and ambiguity, locking connection with the viewer. While there is a soft dissection of the body, which is not aggressive in any way, it rather hugs in a self-embrace. These elements in tandem convey a sense of uncertainty, and fracture that allude to issues of today. Gill’s work is a challenge to perceptions of portraiture, without ostracising the viewer. It is a very accomplished study of self.

Minjung Kang, Silence, 2022. Gouache on paper, 95 x 95 cm.

Judges comments, provided by Alan R. Dodge AM, Gina Fairley, and Emma Bitmead (who awarded the Highly Commended Prize):

There is a bold monumentality to Minjung Kang’s Silence. The use of gouache is particularly delicate, and works well with Kang’s choice of a refined palette, giving the work a timeless quality. Compositionally, she plays with layered forms: moving between the flatness of the portrait’s rendering to the fineness of the subject’s hair, all placed against the solid background. This invites the viewer to get closer, adding a visual surprise, and deeper engagement. One is intrigued by this portrait. The image may be flat, but the emotion remains intense. It has a sculptural quality, which challenges that flatness, and allows the mind to roam and find connections to ancient histories and narratives that bridge past, place and present.

Winner — $10,000 Minderoo Foundation Spirit Prize

Winner — ​$5,000 Ashurt Emerging Artist Prize

Liz Stute, Jess, 2022. Oil on canvas, 81 x 61 cm.

Comments from the Minderoo Spirit Prize Judges, Sid Pattni, Helen Turner, and Ana Nieto:

Jess is a deeply considered portrait that bridges the gap between the artist and the subject, her mother. Stute centres and elevates her mother in the frame, tempering the muted palette with a penetrating warmth that speaks to her resilience and courage in the face of deteriorating health.

With a compelling balance of uncontrolled, expressive mark-making and precise brushstrokes, Stute has captured a moment in time charged with chaos and order, sadness and hope, and pride and vulnerability. Jess strongly demonstrates the values celebrated by the Minderoo Foundation Spirit Prize, exploring an intimate and complex maternal bond.

India Mark, Studio self-portrait, 2023. Oil on linen, 25 x 20 cm.

Judges comments, provided by Alan R. Dodge AM, Gina Fairley, and Emma Bitmead:

India Mark’s Studio self-portrait is an unassuming painting. Honest in its composition, with a refined facture, the elements come together to provide a frank self-assessment by the artist. The intimate scale, delicate brushwork and direct gaze of the subject have all contributed to a portrait that is confident, straightforward, and impactful. As an early career artist, Mark demonstrates a maturity knowing when to stop, honing and restraining detail. Her spare brushwork, however, is countered with the confidence of that luminous green square grounding the composition and making it sing.


Winner — Highly Commended Prize winner

(Left): Sarah Paton, Memento mori, 2023. Acrylic, pencil and ink on canvas, 69 x 89 cm.

Judges comments, provided by Alan R. Dodge AM, Gina Fairley, and Emma Bitmead:

Sarah Paton’s Memento mori is a raw self-assessment by the artist. Paton appears within the composition as a ghostly apparition, with the face rendered drained of emotion, and her body pulled forward by the intensity of the eyes – holding the viewer in engagement. The psychological intensity of the subject is underwritten by the spare brushwork, the bleak colour and the searing splashes of the lights in the background. One cannot help but empathise with the feeling conveyed by the work. The starkness of the clinical colours chosen contribute to this sense of emotional and psychological lethargy. Despite this, there is a feeling of humanity to the piece; you get the sense of a real person – and bare witness to their pain.  

Winner — Baldock Family People's Choice Prize winner

(Left): Kelly Maree, Ellia, 2023. Acrylic on canvas, 198 x 152 cm.


Kelly Maree on her work:

I wanted this portrait to feel raw and intimate, evoking connection between the subject and the viewer. This portrait aims to depict the pain of Ellia’s hardships whilst simultaneously capturing his personal story of strength and resilience. I used dramatic tones and positioning to encapsulate the sheer force of Ellia’s powerful story. Ellia’s gaze was imperative to this piece; it is within the eyes that we connect our shared human experience.

Ellia Green was the key player in the Australian Rugby Sevens team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Following his retirement from Rugby Sevens, Ellia became the first Olympic Gold Medallist to openly identify as a trans man. Witnessing Ellia’s journey, marked by courage and resilience, deeply inspired me. His capacity to confront adversities throughout his life is a testament to his remarkable strength.