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Boyup artist closes regional distance with The Lester Prize

Boyup artist closes regional distance with The Lester Prize

Regional Arts WA

This story was submitted by The Lester Prize and written by Boyup Brook artist Lori Pensini. We love sharing stories from the sector. If you want to find out how to submit your own stories, take a look at the submit your story page. We can’t wait to hear from you!


The life of an artist, for the most part is one of solitude, doubly so if you are a rural artist. The creative resources and art networks are all but old dirt tracks and, in some places where I have lived,  a ‘cattle pad’ would make for a better description.

The Lester Prize is a crucial platform for me to commit to as it offers me the ability to gauge the artistic merit of my work at a ‘top tier’ national level. I can compare my work to my WA and interstate peers and importantly learn from them, something distance doesn’t afford me.

Lori Pensini with her 2019 Toni Fini Foundation Artist Prize Award winning work Banksia grandis—love begets love. Oil on linen, 130 × 200 cm. Picture: Johannes Reinhart

I can proudly say the support given to the finalist artists by the Prize surpasses anything offered in other major national competitions. A sense of family even. It is a beautiful opportunity to expand on artistic relationships and create new ones. Every year is different: Familiar faces embrace the new, old ways are taught afresh and I never fail to come away inspired by the holistic experience.

The chance to stand in front of a painting of your hand in a state gallery, your own state gallery, is incredibly humbling and empowering – something dreams are made of! I also love the extension of The Lester Prize’s community programme into the major hospitals. It is a great innovative way of reaching out to more people and to those that can’t make it to the gallery.Last year, a patient with dementia recovered lost memories after viewing my painting. The healing power of art for health and mental wellbeing is now well-recognised around the world.

A new and independent pre-selection and judging judging panel of art professionals leads The Lester Prize every year. The Prize has a reputation for its fully transparent processes which ensures there’s no bias, personal, political or financial influence in the selection of finalists and winners. I have been fortunate to have made the final selection 2016 – 2019, but I do not take this lightly or for granted.  I grow and learn every time I get in, and I grow and learn every time I don’t.  I stand proud as a rural West Australian woman artist and love that we have a competition like The Lester to call our own, and one that rivals the eastern seaboard expositions.


Lori has been a finalist of The Lester Prize several times and this year won the coveted Toni Fini Foundation Artist Prize which is a peer prize, the winner being chosen by all the other finalists.

The Lester Prize is one of the country’s premier art prizes—an award that places artists and community proudly front-and-centre through high quality exhibitions and events. The prize proudly focusses on the advancement of the artists, and not the celebrity of the sitters.

For 2020, The Lester Prize will open for entries in April and close late July. The exhibition will be held at the Art Gallery of WA in November. See website for updates and details.

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