Congratulations to Marie Mansfield, winner of the 2021 Portia Geach Memorial Award, the pre-eminent portraiture prize for women in Australia.
Mansfield will receive a $30,000 prize for her portrait of artist Matilda Michell entitled Anthea May or May Not. Mansfield writes: ‘I have known artist Matilda Michell for a few years (through working together). Matilda is so down to earth I wanted to capture her humour and laid back attitude.
We had a ‘sitting’ for the portrait, and at the end she just relaxed into this open pose which captured her perfectly – unencumbered, open and natural in the moment.’
First awarded in 1965, the Portia Geach Memorial Award was established by Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister, artist Portia Geach. Perpetual is trustee of the Award, and as per the direction of the will, it is presented annually to an Australian female artist for the best portrait painted from life of a man or woman distinguished in art, letters or the sciences.
The judging panel – Anita Belgiorno-Nettis, Trustee of Art Gallery of New South Wales, Natalie Wilson, Curator of Australian and Pacific Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Jane Watters, Director, S.H. Ervin Gallery, commented: ‘This year’s finalists showed a diversity of approaches towards the genre of portrait painting, which at its best traditionally balances the central criteria of ‘likeness’ with the more formal qualities of painting. We also responded to a sense of painterly integrity and inventiveness used by many of the artists in capturing the presence of the subject.’
The judging panel selected 57 works from 475 entries received from female artists across Australia. On Mansfield’s portrait, they said: ‘It is distinguished by its uplifting sense of honesty and energy, as well as an integrity of form and content. Her work balances the skill of observation demanded by representation, with a painterly touch which is both suggestive and vigorous. The judges responded to the dynamism of the composition where the elevated position of the sitter’s arms is reminiscent of the central figures in Picasso’s groundbreaking painting Demoiselles d’Avignon.’
The judges also highly commended Jenny Rogerson for her self-portrait Standing in the green leather coat.
An exhibition of all finalists’ works is open for public viewing at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in The Rocks, Sydney, from 4 November to 19 December 2021.