Lester 22
Mess Books
Editing, Publishing

Lester 22

Co-published by Mess Books and The Lester Prize, Lester 22 is a new exhibition companion and a celebration of the portraiture art form. It features artist contributions alongside writing from National Portrait Gallery curator Penny Grist and Boorloo/Perth-based curator and writer Gemma Weston. The Lester Prize is one of Australia’s premier portraiture prizes, presented annually at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

On the cover is Adrian Lazzaro’s strikingly resonant and brilliantly shrewd “Self Portrait”, depicting the artist at attention, hand on heart, “gazing heroically into the distance”. The mask seems to betray the gravity of the moment, yet cleverly suggests that wearing a mask may be a heroic act of the everyman. Lazzaro has worked at Arts Project Australia—a studio and gallery that supports and advocates for the work of neurodiverse artists—since 2004, combining painting, printmaking and textiles to explore societal idiosyncrasies and ironies. Lester delves into his practice through excerpts from his notebooks, which contain all manner of re-interpreted references to politics and celebrity.

Lester draws together the work of all forty 2022 prize finalists, along with their written insights, working sketches and studies, plus transcripts of conversations between artists and The Lester Prize CEO Annie Silberstein, and original writing from Grist and Weston. Grist shares her thoughts on the “curious intimacy” of portraiture, surveying the forces of admiration, love, grief, yearning and devotion that permeate the works in this year’s prize. Weston’s piece is a buoyant yet contortive response to the strange power of the portrait to turn you in on yourself, asking, “What happens, in front of the portrait?”.

Visit the Mess Books website here.

Publisher: Mess Books
Editor in chief: Emma Pegrum
Art director & designer: Bec Stawell Wilson
Writers: Penny Grist and Gemma Weston
Cover art: "Self Portrait", Adrian Lazzaro (2022)