Winner of The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture 2022

Congratulations to Sophia Alone who has won this year’s

The Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture

(selected by a panel of judges).


Sophia Alone, Respect Grandfather Kutri Makanykarra, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 44.5 x 44.5cm (17.51″ x 17.51″)

Sophia Alone has been awarded $50,000 cash for her work: she is also the recipient of the $10,000 Minderoo Foundation Spirit Prize.

Judges Comments!

“All of us were immediately drawn to the intimacy of this work. The work draws you in close but opens out into a wider world and context of family and Country. The way the details of the face were sensitively captured give a sense of her grandfather’s character, personality, and close relationship with the artist. The vibrant contrasting colours and brushwork create a unique energy that brings the portrait to life.” 


Intimacy is perhaps an element common to all portraiture. The works discussed here represent that quality prominently. The judges highlight intimacy as a factor key to the success of Respect Grandfather Kutri Makanykarra.  That aspect underscores what is both an unforgiving and sympathetic rendering as conceivably only a close family member could depict. Regardless while the projected image bristles with warmth and personality, it is at once decidedly unconventional and blunt.  With a certain technical and compositional bravura, the viewer sees a colourful eccentric person; intelligent with a many sided character.  


Some thoughts on a few of the finalists!


Monika Gruszka, Sid with a straw hat, 2022, oil on canvas, 61 x 122cm (24 x 48″)

Sid with a straw hat is fresh and captivating!

It appears aspirational in that Sid looks into the distance confidently and cleanly. This idea gathers credibility because Sid’s head is located in the top lighter half of the painting (against the ‘heavens’), while the viewer is positioned slightly lower looking up into the face. Almost a cliché and yet a certain strength of character and individuality emerge.  It could be that the artist imbues the figure with her own ambitions as a painter – aspiration implies hope and ‘from little things big things grow’

The mustard shirt and background are significant because together they strengthen the impression of a young, assured individual who stands out from the environment of which he forms part.  Perhaps a rural worker, the artist portrays a classically beautiful face contrasting with a peasant-like old straw hat that signifies both a carefree attitude and a loved attribute.  Sid’s stance and hat connote an optimistic self-belief both vitally and uniquely.


Portrait of a painter

Chan Ming How’s Portrait of a painter is self-consciously soft and slightly out of focus, partly due to a technique of scratchy impasto. The portrait is characterised by the protagonist’s direct yet meditative gaze into the viewer’s space.  As if lost in thought pondering the realisation of life as a painter.  This idea is reinforced by the dual concepts of scumbling along with thickly applied pigment. And then by positioning the figure in compressed yet nebulous space, using a ‘reduced’ or indistinct palette in relatively dull light.

The absence of overt light and strong lines as well as the artist represented as almost emerging out of the background makes the portrait appear as if it reflects a subconscious realisation that the ‘whole of the painter’s life’ has lead to this point.

At any one time an individual is made up of many personas, changing circumstances and surrounding impactful environments. We are the sum of layers of social histories and multi-faceted realities. However, though those realities are ever changing, an individual can imagine and aspire to a life that culminates in both a unique calling and one reflective of a desired dominant reality. There is something of this concept in both the title of the work and what the viewer sees represented.

Chan Ming How, Portrait of a painter, 2022, oil on canvas, 60 x 50cm (23.62” x 19.68”)


Displaying only the upper body in a forthright stance, along with immaculate foreshortening and tonal gradations of the upper and forearm respectively implies a fully fleshed body inhabiting the role of painter. Almost as if this thought has caught the artist unawares, yet is one he fully occupys and feels comfortable with. The point can be further made because there is a complete lack of other personal codifying attributes to distract the viewer.

Chan projects an intimate delicacy, a pervasive sense of the painter’s identity steeped in the occupation of artist, momentarily caught in a contemplative mood. 


Andy Quilty, Mum, 2022, charcoal and sandpaper on Arches paper, 211 x 167cm (83.07″ x 65.74″)


Quilty’s method of charcoal and sandpaper on paper aids a pronounced contradiction: the hatching technique, up close view and the use of ‘black’ and white harshly convey a face etched with both age lines and a lifetime of challenges. 

Mum (cont)

Yet Mum’s eyes portray a gentle vulnerability; here is a woman who has emerged from life’s continuum as strong and courageous, if not worn down. These characteristics and circumstances are reinforced by the furrowed brow, pronounced bags under the eyes and indistinct ravaged lips.

Irrespective, this woman denotes self-belief and indomitability; she is of necessity both fearless and more than capable. Mum’s eyes, clear worry lines and her visage compressed in space speak candidly to the viewer; from these idiosyncrasies we understand that her life has had its fair share of sadness and perhaps unrealised expectations.

However, in spite of that a powerful resilience protrudes; perhaps accompanied by an innate sense that there is not much of that quality left for many more battles. 




HIGHLY COMMENDED: Nicholas Hopwood, Quest, 2022, oil on canvas, 76 x 76cm (29.92″ x 29.92″)

Winner Barton Family Foundation Installer’s Prize of $5000

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Mark Chu Here in Spirit 2021. Acrylic and oil on canvas 151 x 101cm (59.44″ x 39.76″)

Winner Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize of $5000


Some of the finalists! 

Click on each image for details and greater definition!





The Lester Prize is managed by The Lester Inc, a not-for-profit organisation. It was formerly ARTrinsic Inc which was 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.

More Recently

In April 2019, the Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, one of the country’s richest prizes for portraiture was renamed The Lester Prize in honour of the award’s leading patron, Richard Lester AM.

The move came about after extensive consultation with artists, arts administrators, sponsors and partners to develop a name that was more ‘ownable’ and recognisable than ‘Black Swan’—a moniker that is shared by many businesses, products and organisations in WA.

The new name recognises the leadership and support of Richard (Dick) Lester in helping the prize grow into one of the most prestigious on Australia’s visual arts calendar.

In the community

The Lester Prize’s annual program includes exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, outdoor exhibitions, big screen displays, guided tours, floor talks, live demonstrations, workshops and outdoor pop up events (many of which are free to the public).

We work with Starlight Livewire at Perth Children’s Hospital, aged care residents, and schools working towards making positive changes within their communities, including NESB (Non-English Speaking Background) and Indigenous groups.


Disclaimer:  The above commentaries by liberal eclectic are not intended as exhaustive expose’s of either the portraits or the artists.  They were chosen because they are ‘among my favourites’ submitted by the artists to the Lester Prize 2022.  They are arresting images for one reason or another and le felt compelled to put some thoughts down about them.   All work that made the finals is worthy of such commentary.


Please contact liberal eclectic if you would like a copy of the commentary or commentaries (for a small fee) or other finalists would like a similar commentary.

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