Portia Geach Finalist!

So gratified to announce that my self portrait ‘Provocateur’ has been selected as a finalist in the 2018 Portia Geach Memorial Award.

Often dubbed the ‘female Archibald’ and heralded as Australia’s most prestigious art prize for portraiture by women artists, the Portia Geach has always seemed particularly special to me, a truly powerful thing to be a part of.  To be shortlisted for this award has been a dream of mine since I first stepped into the S.H. Ervin Gallery on Observatory Hill in October 2006 during a visit to Sydney. Having no idea what was showing, I walked through the door and found myself staring at an exquisite self portrait by Joanna Braithwaite (whose work I have loved since art school). From Jo’s work to the next and the next, as I made my way around the floor I felt like my eyes opened as they never had before.

That show and subsequent finalist exhibitions I’ve seen have blown my mind (far more so than any Archibald), packed full of brave, gritty and incredibly skilful work by extraordinary female figurative artists battling the lingering industry bias for their rightful significance. I couldn’t be more proud to join their ranks this year.

'Pleasant Point Revisited' by Joanna Braithwaite. Highly Commended in the 2006 Portia Geach Memorial Award.

Artist Statement

Here’s the artist statement that accompanies ‘Provocateur’, and further below I’ve included the full list of 2018 finalists and a little about the award and its inspiring namesake from the National Trust S.H. Ervin Gallery website. 

“My self-portraits explore my internal landscape and its reflection in the world around me. ‘Provocateur’ explores (with a hint of satire) my journey in a genetically compromised body through an increasingly toxic world. The canary, of the fabled coal mine, ever my faithful companion and metaphor for self.

My compositions are carefully contrived; from the design and construction of elaborate props (eg. the ornate respirator) to palette choice and key conceptual elements. I love the interplay between contemplative space and ornate detail, the juxtaposition of the commonplace with the wonderfully strange.

I have always turned to self-portraiture, familiar yet confronting, as the modality through which I feel I can best express my concepts. There is a dichotomy between the warrior and the acutely vulnerable that often underpins my representation of self. Perhaps this an insight into what I do for a living. The choice to belay the safety net of a conventional occupation and make a career as a female figurative artist takes an abundance of sheer bloody-mindedness, masochism and sitzfleisch. Yet it’s a choice that I have never regretted making, nor do I ever intend to (that’s the bloody-mindedness, I suppose).”

'Provocateur' (self portrait) 2018, oil on aluminium, 1m x 1m.


From the National Trust S.H. Ervin Gallery website:

The Portia Geach Memorial Award is Australia’s most prestigious art prize for portraiture by women artists.

The Award was established by the will of the late Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister, Portia Geach. The non-acquisitive prize is awarded by the Trustee for the entry which is of the highest artistic merit, ‘…for the best portrait painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the close date for entries.’

Portia Geach Memorial Award Finalists 2018:

KATE BEYNON Demi-ghost guardian with tangerine and kindred spirits Kate Beynon (self portrait), MELBOURNE, VIC

JOANNA BRAITHWAITE Bird Watcher (self portrait), SYDNEY, NSW

GINA BRUCE Ann Thomson (artist), SYDNEY, NSW

ANN CAPE Elsa (Elsa Atkin, arts administrator), SYDNEY, NSW

DAGMAR CYRULLA Stillness (self portrait), MELBOURNE, VIC

SINEAD DAVIES Self portrait-after surgery, SYDNEY, NSW


NICOLETTE EISDELL Dr. Anne Noonan, psychiatrist & Jungian analyst, SYDNEY, NSW

ESTHER ERLICH Teaser (self portrait), MELBOURNE, VIC



JANE GUTHLEBEN Self portrait in puffer jacket, SYDNEY, NSW


SOPHIE HAYTHORNTHWAITE What Remains (Denise Leith, author), SYDNEY, NSW

SOPHIA HEWSON Untitled (birth plan) (self portrait), MELBOURNE, VIC

MICHELLE HISCOCK The Actor (Kate Fitzpatrick, actor), SYDNEY, NSW

JOSEPHINE JOSEPHSEN Fr Andrew SJ (Father Andrew Bullen SJ, Jesuit Priest), SYDNEY, NSW

SALLY KAY Maggie (Maggie Beer, cook, restaurateur and author), VIC/NSW

JANNE KEARNEY Time’s up! (Teah Raeburn, student/model), GEELONG, VIC

NICOLE KELLY The bath (self portrait), SYDNEY, NSW

SANDRA LALOPOULOS Alexander McKenzie (artist), SYDNEY, NSW

JESSICA LE CLERC Mercy (Anna McGahan, actress & playwright), SUNSHINE COAST, QLD

KIM LEUTWYLER Cole (Nicole Rodriquez, visual artist), SYDNEY, NSW

KATHRIN LONGHURST The Mariner (Anthony Longhurst, mariner), SYDNEY, NSW

EFFIE MANDALOS Portrait of Ciaran Daly (professional mixed martial artist), MELBOURNE, VIC

MARIE MANSFIELD Jane Caro (writer, social commentator, lecturer, speaker, columnist, mentor, facilitator), SYDNEY, NSW


LIX NORTH Provocateur (self portrait), BRISBANE, QLD

SUSAN O’DOHERTY Self-Portrait In Blue Dress SYDNEY, NSW

ALICE PULVERS Portrait of Lucy with Oriental Carpets (Lucy Pulvers, artist) SYDNEY, NSW


JUDE RAE Portrait of the Artist’s Mother – Val at 93 (Valerie Rae), SYDNEY, NSW

SALLY ROSS Zara (Zara Sigglekow, curator and writer), MELBOURNE, VIC

BRENDA RUNNEGAR Fergus (Fergus Thomson, Barrister), CANBERRA, ACT

RAELENE SHARP A journey through time (Leonard Alden, artist) MELBOURNE, VIC

WENDY SHARPE Jill McKay with Eye Patch (actor and artist model) SYDNEY, NSW

KERRYL SHIRLEY Professor Helen Verran (Professor of Philosophy) YARRA VALLEY, VIC

LORIBELLE SPIROVSKI In search of lost time (Simon Tedeschi, concert pianist) SYDNEY, NSW

KATE STEVENS Motherhood (Portrait of the Artist’s Son, Ananta Bajracharya), GOULBURN, NSW

CLARE THACKWAY Portrait of Lynda (Lynda Draper, ceramicist), CANBERRA, ACT

PAM TIPPETT John Waters, actor and musician, GOULBURN, NSW

JESKA VALK Georgia Maq (Georgia McDonald, musician), GOLD COAST, QLD

DEBORAH WALKER The Compass (Georgia as Amy Johnson) (Georgia Gibbs, literature student), MELBOURNE, VIC

CHRISTINE WEBB Visiting Elisabeth (Elisabeth Cummings and Robin Lawrence, artists), SYDNEY, NSW

LEIGHA WHITE Aunty Francis Bodkin (botanist, environmental scientist, University of Western Sydney elder on campus), MELBOURNE, VIC

ZOE YOUNG Drawing Storyboards (Bruce Beresford, film and opera director), SYDNEY, NSW

ZOE YOUNG My Kinda Covergirl – Councillor Jess Miller (Jess Miller, Deputy Lord Mayor), SYDNEY, NSW

YVONNE ZAGO A man in bed with his dog (A portrait of Iain Dean artist), PERTH, WA

CAROLINE ZILINSKY Spring Never Came (self portrait), SYDNEY, NSW

TIANLI ZU M (Monika Tu, business executive, philanthropist), SYDNEY, NSW

MICHELLE ZUCCOLO Addressing winter (Self portrait), MELBOURNE, VIC

2018 finalist representation by state:

NSW: 29

VIC: 13

QLD: 3

ACT: 2

SA: 2  

WA: 1



The Portia Geach Memorial Award was established by the bequest of (Florence) Kate Geach to honour her sister, artist Portia Geach who died in October 1959. Born in in Melbourne in 1873, Portia Geach studied design and painting at the National Gallery School, Melbourne from 1893 to 1896 winning a prize for her nude painting. In 1896 she won the first travelling scholarship awarded to an Australian to study at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where she remained for four years. She seemed destined for a successful artistic career.


Around 1900, she returned to Melbourne and began experimenting with her art. She eventually focused on figure studies, portraits and atmospheric landscapes. The family moved to Sydney around 1904 settling in Cremorne Point. She painted murals for buildings in New York in 1917, and in 1926 was exhibiting at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She continued to travel widely, visiting New Guinea, Noumea, Tahiti and New Zealand and belonged to the Women’s Club, Sydney, and the Lyceum Club, Melbourne.

Disillusioned by the lack of support from the male dominated art world Portia directed her energies fighting for the rights of women in Australia and painting a banner for the suffrage movement in 1905. She founded and was president of the New South Wales Housewives’ Association. In 1928 she reorganised the association as the Housewives’ Progressive Association. For many years she was also president of the Federated Association of Australian Housewives. In the Sydney Morning Herald and over the radio she frequently expressed her views on such subjects as buying Empire goods, the use of preservatives in foodstuffs, the date-stamping of eggs, the marking of lamb and the high price of milk and bread. Armed with a strong personality, she campaigned against the closed front that she claimed had faced her when she had tried to exhibit her paintings.

Sometimes referred to as the female Archibald Prize, the Portia Geach Memorial Memorial Award is given annually “… for the best portraits painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the closing date for entries”. The Portia Geach Memorial Award seems an appropriate legacy and ensures that, over fifty years after her death, women artists in Australia are encouraged and supported in their endeavours.


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