WA artist Lori Pensini a national finalist with her “stellar violets” portrait featuring Lucinda

WA artist Lori Pensini a national finalist with her “stellar violets” portrait featuring Lucinda

| by Sonia Kohlbacher |

A Western Australian artist known for her breathtaking portraits of women and stunning landscape portrayals has been shorted-listed for one of the most prestigious women’s art prizes in Australia. 


Lori Pensini’s delicate portrait of Lucinda Giblett was a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Art Prize, often referred to as the Archibald Prize for women.

Painted in her Boyup Brook farm studio, Pensini’s piece is an intimate portrait that simultaneously reflects on both women’s ties to the land that has mothered generations of their families, and womanhood. 

“I never used to think what I did was important, until I started putting it down on canvas,” she said. 

“I haven’t always been taken seriously as an artist, and have had to repeat that what I do is not a hobby or craft. 

“It’s especially challenging for female artists because we have to wear multiple hats through life.”

Pensini is one of only three Western Australian artists who have made the final round of this year’s Portia Geach Memorial Art Prize. 

Her work, ‘stellar violets’, is heavily steeped in the memory of her mother, and offers an insight into the intricate relationship she shares with Ms Giblett, founder of the Manjimup-based Stellar Violets social enterprise. 

“When I was painting, I thought about the women we could possibly make a difference to, but it went further than that, it went back to the women who made a difference to us, to our mothers,” Pensini said. 

“I spent most of the time painting and singing old songs that my mother used to sing to me.”

One of those songs was Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours. 

“In the song they were very poor, and the mother would sew patches onto her daughter’s cloak,” Pensini explained. 

“Other kids laughed at it, but the girl saw it as a coat of riches, as every stitch was sewn with the love of her mother.”

In her portrait, Pensini has captured Ms Giblett wearing a cloak of carefully stitched together rosellas, a nod to their rural roots and the strong countrywomen who came before them. 

 “The birds are stitched together with memories of being shaped by our mothers,” Ms Pensini added. 

“So it’s an intrinsic connection, and that came through a lot.”

The Portia Geach Memorial Art Prize was established to support female artists, and was shown at the S. H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney.

Local news article

Meeting Martin Foot, a modern day Michelangelo

Meeting Martin Foot, a modern day Michelangelo

While hoarding hundreds queue in Florence to see works of Renaissance masters, we’re in quiet Pietra Santa, meeting Martin Foot.

He is a master sculptor of “Michelangelo’s marble” in modern times, though I doubt he’d describe himself that way. With a distinctly mischievous look in his twinkling eyes, Martin Foot has the look of a happy man, doing what he loves.

“To be surrounded by beauty, as well as contributing to it; that’s what makes me feel happy.” 

We follow him into the workshop, its floor soft with white marble dust. Dozens of sculpted forms line every shelf and wall, and hundreds more plaster casts are crammed into the attic. 

“Some have been there more than 80 years,” he says.

Martin had formerly worked as a stone mason. It was noted Australian artist and teacher, Steve Gorton, and the 70’s vibe in Sydney’s Paddington, that sparked Martin’s flare.

“He changed my life,” Martin says of his teacher.

He has at least three marble sculptures on the go, and has recently shipped some finished commissions. Martin Foot is in demand. Like most artists, though, he prefers to do his own thing, rather than specific requests. It’s a balancing act.

“One has to pay the bills”, he laughs.

During our visit he shows us a special sculpture he has recently made for Steve, his teacher.

“It’s so heavy, I’m not sure how to get it to him,” Martin muses.

After two hours with this happy, inspired man we are left wanting more. We bundle up Martin’s gift and stow it in the suitcase, to make its way to Perth, then across to Sydney to Steve. Seemed a special thing to be able to do, to carry a gift of thanks from student to master, from one side of the world to the other. I make it sound like we went on foot! Well, we just about would, for a man like Martin Foot.

Check out his online portfolio