Jane Guthleben has been selected for the Portia Geach Memorial Award, for her painting of the bird photographer, Leila Jeffreys.

Renowned photographic artist Leila Jeffreys is internationally recognised for her bird portraiture, video installations, books, films and her contribution to bird conservation. Recently she undertook an assignment in sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, where she observed penguin populations. She sent me pictures from the trip of penguin parents doting on their fluffy brown babies. With recent news that shrinking ice has had a devastating impact on penguin populations in Antarctica this year, her trip and research couldn’t have been timelier.

For our Portia Geach sitting we went to Sydney Aquarium where we spent a few hours looking at penguins. Leila is a bird whisperer, and the penguins there climbed all over her and were fascinated by her camera equipment. It seemed right that a portrait of Leila would include a bird.

This painting is part of an ongoing series of portraits of women I admire that I call ornament-portraits; small in size and designed to be the opposite of monuments (which have historically been mostly of men). The subject stands on a little plinth, rather like an ornament on a shelf. In this case the plinth can also be read as a shrinking iceberg floating in Antarctic waters.


'Leila and the Baby King' 2023
oil on marine ply
40.2cm x 22.6cm