The Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019 Winners Announced

Design / Life

Sydney-based actor and artist Liam Nunan with his portrait of fellow actor Jonny Hawkins is The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019 Winner of WA’s premier portrait prize – The Lester Prize.

Liam wins $50,000 cash donated by founding sponsor The Lester Group, plus two economy class return tickets to any Singapore Airlines destination valued at $7,320.

Artist Statement
Jonny’s spontaneous, curious nature and ability to make bold plans on a whim without fear of consequence, has led to some of his greatest successes and adventures. For his portrait, I had musings of disco balls with Jonny in his best party dress drinking Prosseco from the bottle, surrounded by the noise and movement of his devoted dance floor congregation. My first study of him settled into something quieter. Before Jonny came out as gay, he had a very different trajectory. He grew up in a conservative religious family and was even ordained as a pastor. Living the life we want can come at a great cost. Irrespective of whether we have regrets (or not), many of us sacrifice a life lived freely and as authentically as we desire. Inspired by some religious iconography, I hoped to convey a small moment of contemplative reflection – a sense of fortitude and a reconciling with the past.


The $10,000 Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize (selected by artists’ peers) was awarded to Lori Pensini from Boyup Brook WA for her portrait Banksia grandis—love begets love.


The winners of the two highly commended prizes, were Jeff Bryant for his work Lazarus and Nicole O’Loughlin for her work The artist Mother is present. They each receive $1,000 cash, $250 Oxlades Art Supplies plus one economy class return ticket to any Singapore Airlines destination valued at $3,660.


The winners were announced at the sold-out Awards Night at AGWA on Friday 6 November, where the 40 finalists’ works are now on display until 9 December 2019 in the Centenary Galleries.

This year’s works reveal stories of self-reflection, struggle over hardship and unique insights from self-portraits to people who have played a significant part in the artists’ lives. The finalists works range across a variety of media including oil, acrylic, watercolour, graphite, woodcut print, and mixed media.

When you visit the free exhibition at AGWA, don’t forget to have your say in the $7,500 Baldock Family People’s Choice Award, which is selected by the general public. Voting is available at The Lester Prize exhibition or online at The winning artist and voter will be announced on 11 December 2019.

Director Quote
Colin Walker, AGWA Acting Director said, “We are now in the fourth year of hosting The Lester Prize at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and it is proving a popular and accessible exhibition for visitors through its mix of personal stories, varied approaches to portraiture, and the associated events and community program.”

Curator Quote
Dunja Rmandić, AGWA’s Associate Curator 21st Century Arts, who also curated the exhibition and was part of the Pre-Selection Panel, said “the works in this year’s exhibition surprise with unusual reflection between the artist and the sitter, creating moments of quietude and intimacy. While a lot of the works are self-portraits, other subjects are cultural shifters, creative types and special people rather than celebrities. This subtle portrayal of the ‘human’ over the ‘hero’ draws the viewer into their personal stories of relationships, self-reflection – of personal plight and of life.”

To view the full list of finalists and winners, visit

AGWA: Perth Cultural Centre, Perth WA 6000