After being named as a finalist for five consecutive years, West Australian artist Lori Pensini has taken out top honours in the 2021 Kilgour Prize.
In a sign of the times, the artist was informed of her win by Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton via an online call, with the exhibition’s slated August 13 opening scuttled due to COVID restrictions.
“While we are disappointed not to be able to share this news with Lori in person, we felt it was more important to pass on our congratulations without any further delay,” Cr Nelmes said.
“The arts community has been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19, making this award and its $50,000 prize even more valuable at this time.”
Lori’s work, Family 2021,depicts family portraits painted on heirloom fine bone china plates, which she said were a “tribute to the inter-racial relationships of my colonial fore-bearers and the First Peoples of the southwest of Western Australia”.
“These portraits are a continuum for myself and my art practice exploring the Indigenous lineage to my ancestry,” Lori explained.
“Each plate is unique to itself, honouring individual endeavours and fortitude. Collectively they embody the sense of ‘family’, of intimate bonds forged and the endurance of fervent relationships that defied racial vilification of the times.”
This year’s prize was judged by Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton, Campbelltown Arts Centre Head of Curatorial Adam Porter and the Head Teacher of Fine Art at Newcastle Art School, David Trout.
“There is a tension presented through this work – the portraits are haunting, but also mesmerising,” Lauretta said.
“It is not a divisive narrative, but one that embraces the individual stories behind this family portrait.”
Newcastle Art Gallery received a record 476 works from artists across every state and territory in Australia for this year’s Kilgour Prize, which presents some of the best examples of contemporary Australian portrait and figurative painting.
This year’s finalists were:
Lisa Adams, Gillian Adamson, Matteo Bernasconi, Jackson Booth, Catherine Boreham, Julie-Ann Brown, Simon Brown, Daniel Butterworth, Emily Jayne Carroll, John Dahlsen, Archer Davies, Rachelle Dusting, John Earle, David Fairbairn, Nick Fintan, Christine Fontana, Miriam Fraser, Michael Lindeman, Nunzio Miano, Robert O’Connor, Nathan Paddison, Lori Pensini, Alice Pulvers, James R Randall, Zeljka Reljan-Music, Grace Kemarre Robinya, Paul Ryan, Jason Tolmie, Mick Turner and Mark Tweedie.
While Newcastle Art Gallery remains closed during lockdown the Kilgour Prize 2021 exhibition showcasing the 30 finalists can be viewed here.
Votes for the People’s Choice Award can be cast online until 5pm on 6 October 2021. The winner will be announced on 11 October 2021 and awarded $5,000.