Caroline Zilinsky wins Portia Geach Memorial Award

Commended on her bold and penetrating portrait.

Words: Erin Irwin

The winner of the 2020 Portia Geach Memorial Award is Caroline Zilinsky, with her portrait of dancer Anthea Pilko titled Anthea May or May Not.

The Portia Geach Memorial Award is a prestigious Australian prize which has been running since 1965, honouring female artists who depict from life a man or woman distinguished in art, letters or the sciences. This year’s prize received 397 submissions from throughout Australia, which was whittled down to 60 finalists by the judging panel.

The painting, Anthea May or May Not, portrays contemporary dancer Anthea Pilko. Of the portrait, the artist says “Pilko spent the first seven years of her life in a full body cast to correct a congenital hip problem. She is now a veteran dancer whose oeuvre includes private performances for dignitaries and former Prime Ministers. Here she sits in her signature faux fur coat and Adidas slides with the chincherinchee flowers she brought for our sitting.”

This year’s judging panel included 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 of S.H Ervin Gallery. “The winning work captured our attention with its unique style and meticulous attention to detail,” say the judges. “This bold and penetrating work sensitively portrays the sitter, naked yet proud and strong. The artist has successfully navigated the line between the absurd and the profound in a distinctive personal and imaginative manner that is disarmingly honest.”

The judges also commended all the competing artists on the quality of the works they had assessed, and noted that it speaks to a positive future for Australian portraiture in spite of the formidable challenges the arts community has faced this year.

An exhibition of all finalists’ works is open for public viewing at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in The Rocks, Sydney, from Friday 14 August until Sunday 20 September.

For more information and a list of finalists, visit the S. H. Ervin Gallery’s website.

Image: Caroline Zilinsky, Anthea May or May Not, 2020. Oil on linen, 115 x 100. Courtesy: the artist and the Portia Geach Memorial Award.

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