Artist Lori Pensini’s depiction of her cousins, Tyler and Georgia, tells a broader story of race relations in early Australia and was painted following her Western Australian family’s ‘recent discovery of indigenous lineage’.
The intimate and loving portrait of the girls in matching striped dresses has been voted the People’s Choice in Newcastle Art Gallery’s Kilgour Prize 2018 exhibition.
The ‘social and political prejudices of the colonial era’ – acknowledges the artist’s statement – saw her ancestors conceal two sons’ marriages to local Noongar women, denying latter generations all knowledge of the unions that ultimately spawned Pensini’s contrasting subjects.
Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton hailed the public’s decision, the skill Pensini employed to convey intimacy, and context and broader social narrative of the work.
‘It becomes apparent when viewing this intimate portrait that the artist has a strong connection to the subjects, and her deft skill in rendering their striped dresses further unifies the strong bond between the cousins,’ Morton said.
Pensini, 48, receives $5,000 from the bequest of local artist Jack Noel Kilgour. The major figurative and portrait art competition he left behind for Newcastle Art Gallery in 1987 is now one of Australia’s most renowned.
The annual Kilgour Prize offers aspiring artists a level and lucrative playing field – as paintings are judged without attribution – before the winner is awarded $50,000.
Sydney artist Natasha Walsh’s intimate and delicate self-portrait, Within the Studio (self-portrait) (2017), earned this year’s prize.
The Kilgour Prize 2018 exhibition will remain on display at the Newcastle Art Gallery until 21 October 2018.
The 2018 finalists are: Geoffrey Breen, Filippa Buttitta, Rachel Coad, James Drinkwater, Sarah Gosling, Jeannine Grey, David Griggs, Craig Handley, Jacqueline Hennessy, Cliff Hosking, Peter Lankas, Fiona Lowry. Marie Mansfield, Steve May, Fiona McMonagle, Rachel Milne, Alice Palmer, Amanda Penrose Hart, Lori Pensini, Rodney Pople, Glen Preece, Jordan Richardson, Michael Simms, Anthony Slater, Peter Smeeth, Loribelle Spirovski, Susan Sutton, Mark Tweedie, Natasha Walsh and Anthony Williams.