The Lester Prize 2019

The Lester Prize 2019

Same Prize. Different Face. The Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, one of the country’s richest prizes for portraiture has been renamed The Lester Prize in honour of the award’s leading patron, Richard Lester.

Forty finalists from across Australia have been selected from over 400 entrants for this year's The Lester Prize.

Amongst this year's finalists, 15 were WA artists, 10 were from VIC, 9 from NSW, with the remaining 6 from QLD, TAS and the ACT.

Subjects of the works range from self-portraits to people who have played a significant part in the artists' lives. A quarter of this year's finalists have been named as finalists in previous years of the competition.

The Pre-Selection Panel, Olga Cironis; Dr Darren Jorgensen; Dunja Rmandić; Mark Stewart and Toni Wilkinson said, “the diverse cultural and personal narratives presented were revealing of our contemporary world today—it certainly made the selection process challenging. The works uncovered stories of self-reflection, struggle over hardship and unique insights which will hopefully ignite imaginations and evoke emotions with the viewing public. Media such as oil, acrylic, watercolour, graphite, woodcut print, and mixed media will feature in this year’s collection."

The Lester Prize is celebrating its thirteenth anniversary in 2019 and its fourth year at the Art Gallery of WA. The finalists' artworks will be on display at AGWA in the Centenary Galleries from 9 November to 9 December 2019.

The Awards were announced on 8 November at the sold-out Awards Night at AGWA. The winner of The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019 was Liam Nunan for his portrait of Jonny Hawkins.

This year's Prize pool consists of:

  • The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture (selected by a panel of judges) | $50,000 cash plus two economy class return tickets to any Singapore Airlines destination (except USA) valued at $3,660 excluding taxes
  • Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize (selected by artists’ peers) | $10,000 cash
  • Baldock Family People’s Choice Prize (selected by the general public) | $7,500 cash
  • Highly Commended x 2 (selected by a panel of judges) | $1,000 cash, $250 Oxlades Art Supplies plus one economy class return ticket to any Singapore Airlines destination (except USA) valued at $3,660 excluding taxes each

For more information on the 2019 finalists and winners please visit

Related Information




The Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019 Winners

The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture

Winner of The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019  Liam Nunan Jonny Hawkins 2019
Winner | The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2019 
Liam Nunan Jonny Hawkins 2019. Oil on canvas, 45 x 61 cm.


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.

About the Subject
Originally from the Blue Mountains, Jonny Hawkins is a WAAPA graduate, a DJ, writer and an award-winning actor. In 2018, Jonny wrote and acted in Joy Boy, an autobiographical short film about his upbringing in a conservative religious family, becoming an ordained pastor and his eventual coming out as gay and moving to Sydney. Whilst he is known for his infectious grin and hugs that would rival your nana’s, Jonny is probably best known for his contribution to queer-positive spaces through the spread of his love of disco as one half of the DJ duo The Dollar Bin Darlings.

Like all good portrait’s 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 somber 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.

Professor Ted Snell, Jaklyn Babington and Melissa Harpley
The Lester Prize Judges 2019 commented about Liam’s work

Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize

Lori Pensini Banksia grandis—love begets love
Winner | Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize 
Lori Pensini Banksia grandis—love begets love 2019. Oil on linen, 230 x 130 cm. 


Artist Statement
This is a love story – it is my family’s story. It tells of love lost, forbidden and endured; of discrimination, shame and division of which my family wasn’t immune. It is important for my person and myself as an artist to paint the courage, resilience and the sheer resolve of character my forbearers modelled. They empower me, their laudable threads woven intricately into the fabric of my being. They ground and grow my inner strength, and, in turn, give rise to fertile beds to nourish my children.

Highly Commended 

Highly Commended 2019 Jeff Bryant Lazarus 2019
Winner | Highly Commended 2019
Jeff Bryant Lazarus 2019. Oil on canvas, 107 x 91 cm.


Highly Commended

Highly Commended 2019 Nicole O'Loughlin The artist Mother is present 2019
Winner | Highly Commended 2019
Nicole O'Loughlin The artist Mother is present 2019. Watercolour, gouache and ink on paper, 70 x 75 cm.

People’s Choice Award

Jordan Andreotta Sr Flora 2019
Winner | The Lester Prize 2019 People’s Choice Award
Jordan Andreotta Sr Flora 2019. Graphite and pencil on paper, 41 x 55 cm. Courtesy of the artist.


Jordan Andreotta received the highest number of votes and takes home $7,500 kindly donated by the Baldock Family.

One lucky voter has also won a $100 AGWA Shop voucher; a beautiful Estelle Display Lamp valued at $979 from The Montauk Lighting Co.; plus a 6 weeks’ Home Base Interior Design Course for 2 people valued at $700 donated by Home Base Perth in Subiaco.

Artist Statement
I first met Sr Flora in 2017 when I began teaching at Iona Presentation College. There was an immediate sense of warmth and welcoming about her. Sr Flora has recently retired, after being a significant and influential member of the College for the past thirty years. My portrait aims to depict Sr Flora in a contemplative pose – capturing a presence that she has become renowned for by staff, students and the community. Her gaze and facial expression – as she looks back on all of her experiences – reflects a life of compassion, joy and purpose.

Art and Memories

The Art Gallery of WA's Art and Memories guided tours and Artistic Adventures workshops assist people living with dementia, and their carers or primary support network, to challenge their condition and help develop a creative mind.

Art and Memories is a program provided throughout the year by AGWA's Voluntary Gallery Guides (VGGs) to people living with dementia. Learn more about this specialist program

AGWA's VGGs will use the Art and Memories program during The Lester Prize season to provide a unique experience.

Please email for information, details and bookings.

Mind the Change Workshops followed by Art and Memories Guided Tours by AGWA's Voluntary Gallery Guides | FREE
10-11am, Tuesday 12 November
10-11am, Saturday 23 November
10-11am, Tuesday 26 November
10-11am, Saturday 7 December

People living with dementia and their support person will have to book into the workshop to then be able to participate in the Guided Tours.

Art and Memories Guided Tours by AGWA's Voluntary Gallery Guides | FREE
11.15am-12pm, Tuesday 12 November
11.15am-12pm, Saturday 23 November
11.15am-12pm, Tuesday 26 November
11.15am-12pm, Saturday 7 December


The Lester Prize is managed by The Lester (formerly ARTrinsic Inc), a not-for-profit organisation, founded in 2007 by Tina Wilson to provide an avenue for artists to exhibit works of portraiture within Western Australia.

After successfully taking the Main Awards and Exhibition to its new home at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2016, Tina stepped down to return to her own artistic practice. Tina Wilson was made Patron of the Prize in 2018 in recognition of her passionate and tireless work to ensure there was a prize of ever-increasing excellence and prestige. 

Dick Lester was made Lifetime Patron of the Prize in 2018, in recognition of his passion for the Arts, his encouragement of Tina Wilson during her tenure as Executive Director, and his advice and financial assistance that, from modest beginnings, enables the Prize to flourish. 

On Saturday 27 August, the Gallery is open 10am-3pm only as we prepare for the AGWA Foundation Gala supporting women in the arts. Some exhibition access will be disrupted with two Tracks We Share ground floor galleries closed. AGWA Rooftop bar will be closed, reopening at 2pm Sunday. Details