Sydney-based actor and artist Liam Nunan is the winner of the Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019, for his portrait of fellow actor Jonny Hawkins. In addition to the cash prize of $50,000, Nunan receives two economy class return tickets to any Singapore Airlines destination valued at $7,320.
The Lester Prize is WA’s premier portrait prize. Formerly known as The Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, this award is now in its 13th year and boasts a prize pool of over $77,000. It was renamed in 2019 in honour of the award’s leading patron, Richard Lester AM, and for the last four years has been held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
Nunan said of his winning oil on canvas work: “Like so many LGBTQI people, Johnny has sacrificed to live his life as freely and authentically as he does. In our sittings, I hoped to convey a moment of reflection. A sense of fortitude and a reconciling of self.”
The Lester Prize Judges in 2019 were Jaklyn Babington, Melissa Harpley and Professor Ted Snell. The judges commented on the winner: “Like all good portraits, Liam Nunan’s sensitive portrayal of his friend Jonny Hawkins reveals just enough to encourage us to search for more. And there is more! Jonny’s introspective, downcast gaze, the sombre palette, the brooding expressions, are tantalising lures that draw us closer to this man. We want to know more about his relationship with Liam and how this document of their friendship materialised. The artist’s statement is another intriguing hook. How do we reconcile this ‘moment of reflective contemplation’ with Jonny’s ‘infectious grin’ and ‘love of disco’? Although new to painting, Liam is attuned to the humanity of his subject, and that makes him a worthy winner of this important prize.”
The $10,000 Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize (selected by the 2018 finalists) was awarded to Lori Pensini for her portrait Banksia grandis—love begets love. Two Highly Commended awards went to self-portraits—Tasmanian artist Nicole O’Loughlin’s The artist Mother is present, and WA artist Jeff Bryant’s Lazarus—with these artists receiving one economy class return ticket to any Singapore Airlines destination valued at $3,660, $1,000 cash, and a $250 voucher from Oxlades Art Supplies.
The 40 finalists’ works are now on public display in the Centenary Galleries at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, until 9 December 2019. Visitors are encouraged to vote for the Baldock Family People’s Choice Award, worth $7,500.