Art teacher is Archibald finalist again

Asset Publisher

10 July 2024

Reward and recognition

Award-winning artist and long-serving art teacher, Jill Ansell, has been named a finalist for the Archibald Prize for the second year in a row.

Ms Ansell’s portrait, Pericles: just scratching the surface, was one of 57 selected from more than 1,000 entries for Australia’s most well-known portrait prize.

Ms Ansell’s portrait, Pericles: just scratching the surface, was a finalist for the Archibald Prize.

The artwork combines oil painting, object assemblage and engraving inside a tin which measures just 10.5 cm by 16 cm.

Its subject is fellow West Australian artist and philanthropist, Leon Pericles, an internationally acclaimed master printmaker.

"In the portrait, Leon works at his desk – headlamp on, etching away and surrounded by curiosities,” Ms Ansell told the Art Gallery of NSW.

“The objects reflect Leon’s collections, life and art, while the view is his imaginary WA town of Widjimorphup. Words are etched in reverse, Leon having spent a lifetime writing backwards.

Ms Ansell was a first-time Archibald Prize finalist in 2023 with a self-portrait that explored themes of remoteness and being unseen.

“I hoped it highlighted that in the 100-year history of the Archibald Prize there has never been an Archibald winner from Western Australia,” she said.

Her latest work continues this exploration.

Ms Ansell spends many hours painting in her studio.

It once again uses a format that is technically challenging and more affordable to send east than a huge canvas.

Unlike other competitions, the Archibald Prize requires artists to submit their original work. Ms Ansell recognises the barrier this can be for West Australian artists.

“The cost of sending work from WA is significant. By not participating, we get less West Australian voices in the national art conversation,” she said.

Ms Ansell has been the art teacher at Fremantle Fast Track, an annex of North Lake Senior Campus, since the mid-2000s. She has been teaching with the Department of Education since 1984.

While Ms Ansell is on leave from her teaching role this year, she wants her achievement to set an example for her students.

“What I hope they do learn from my experience is that they should be original and that they should persist with their ideas and have a go,” she said.

Laura Jones received the 2024 Archibald Prize for her portrait of Tim Winton.