Fiona Lowry first saw architect Penelope Seidler about six years ago at a gallery opening. ‘I was really struck by her beauty and her presence and asked someone who she was. I decided then that I would like to paint her,’ says Lowry, who uses an airbrush and a limited palette of soft, pastel colours to create her paintings.
‘It is important to me when I am making a work that I take the subject to a place that has memory and history attached to it because I am interested in exploring the subject’s interaction with that landscape. We went to Penelope’s iconic house in Killara, which she designed with her late husband Harry Seidler in the 1960s. It’s an incredible space architecturally but it is also loaded with history and memories of life very well lived.
‘We spent some time in the bush at the back of the property looking at the waterfall. At one point, Penelope looked back at the house towering over us and reflected that it had been some time since she had seen it from this angle. It was that reflection that I wanted to explore with this portrait.’
Born in Sydney in 1974, Lowry won the 2008 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. This is her third time in the Archibald Prize. Last year she was highly commended and was a finalist in both the Wynne and Sulman Prizes. This year she is also a Sulman finalist.