Posts Tagged ‘art prizes’
Zeng’s nominated piece is Parliament House (below). On its own, it doesn’t immediately grab the viewer, but it was exhibited in July this year at the Substation as part of a larger series of photographic works titled An Exile Revisits the City - which, as a cohesive unit, was compelling, poignant, and absolutely apposite. In a year which saw the general elections of May 7 marking a watershed moment of sorts in local politics, as well as the continuation of a trend involving memoirs put out by ex-political detainees, one of the most talked about being Teo Soh Lung’s Beyond the Blue Gate (who, by the way, happens to be the sister of ‘paperdyesculpt’ artist Teo Eng Seng), Zeng’s elliptical visual narrative was a cogent statement about the silences and the gaps inscribed into official accounts of Singapore’s post-war history … and their often unremarked human cost. His pictures of a geriatric man, presumably a victim of the PAP’s leftist purges of the 1960s, revisiting various sites of interest such as – yes – Parliament House (no more unambiguous a symbol of power), the Nantah arches, the former Supreme Court, and the old University of Malaya campus, represent an interrogation of the complicity between political hegemony and historical amnesia embodied by many of these locales, craftily foregrounding their emplotment, as sites of official exaltation or collective loss, in the annals of the Singapore Story.
While it did make my Top Ten list for the year, An Exile was a worthy show that deserves better than the ‘non-review’ I’m belatedly giving it. In lieu of what my flagging energies might otherwise have accomplished, here is critic David Spalding on the figure of the ghost in its character as a revenant, i.e. a remnant of the past that haunts the present moment, a spectral reminder of that which has been consigned to (deliberate) oblivion:
To believe in ghosts is to admit that we cannot escape the past. When bygone events are willfully ignored, voided, or otherwise rendered imperceptible, they give rise to ghosts—spectral figures that attempt to reveal what has been excised from collective memory. Ghosts are not simply human spirits who continue to roam the earth after their bodies have decayed. Rather, they are forces whose presence disturbs our temporal and empirical expectations in order to remind us of earlier disasters and injustices that live beneath the thin skin of the present.
Yet a ghost’s enchanted history lessons are never straightforward. Instead, they flicker in the dark corners of our minds, operating outside the laws of logic, often broadcasting scrambled transmissions. Though they can be comforting, afﬁrming what we’ve suspected all along, ghosts seldom bring good news: One is never haunted by pleasant events, unless they dissemble an unknown undertow fraught with terror. Still, without these haunting confrontations, the wounds of the past can never be redressed.
The term haunting best names the ways that certain historical moments—and the forgotten faces and demolished places that comprise them—return to puncture the present. Understanding haunting in this way helps us to detach the ﬁgure of the ghost from visions of a ravaged, reanimated corpse, wreaking vengeance and havoc. Instead, haunting points to visitations from something more mysterious and, sometimes, more frightening. As sociologist Avery Gordon has written:
If haunting describes how that which appears to be not there is often a seething presence, acting on and often meddling with taken-for-granted realities, the ghost is just the sign, or the empirical evidence if you like, that tells you a haunting is going on … The ghost or the apparition is one form by which something lost, or barely visible, or seemingly not there to our supposedly well trained eye, makes itself known or apparent to us, in its own way, of course.
The pieces of the past that return to haunt us are precisely those which have been pushed off the margins and over memory’s edge. The time lines, neat narratives, and illustrations that comprise our accounts of the past can only tell us part of the story. In fact, historical records—in both our psychological and institutional archives—often operate under the logic of exclusion, which tries to discard whatever cannot be easily assimilated. What remains are history’s remains, its forgotten subjects still stirring in the shadows, whispering incessantly and eager to take possession of the present. Though missing from our textbooks and collective memories, these ghosts will not be ignored. They will not be laid to rest anytime soon because they still have something they need to communicate, and we need to pay attention. Perhaps they’ve been exiled from their homes, murdered, or enslaved. “All the departed may return,” writes Nicolas Abraham, “but some are predestined to haunt: the dead who have been shamed during their lifetimes or those who took unspeakable secrets to their grave.”
Ghosts often come to us in the form of sightings, their shapes vaguely outlined in the shadowy half-light that lies between the visible and the invisible. Sometimes we need the aid of a seer to establish contact. Other times, they make their presence known through a striking absence, carving their outlines onto the present in a kind of intaglio that urgently tells us that something is missing. “Visibility,” writes Laura Kipnis, “is a complex system of permission and prohibition, of presence and absence, punctuated by apparitions and hysterical blindness.” In fact, haunting is inextricably linked to seeing, to the revelations of our phantasmatic visions and to the blind spots that sometimes shroud the past in dark obscurity. Accordingly, visual artists are in a unique position to give form to the specters of the past that still shape our present. Such hauntings, whether staged or sighted by visual artists, channeled through the myriad media of contemporary art, have become my preoccupation.
(See here for a full pdf version of Spalding’s text.)
Still trying to finish up my review of the Amanda Heng show at 8Q, and it’s getting long …
Anyways. Artwork of the day: Indonesian artist Samsul Arifin’s You Can See series (2010), a pair of gowns stitched together from numerous little dolls – nude, faceless, vulnerable, seemingly abject.
They’re beautiful and creepy all at once. From afar, they resemble the sort of lavish wedding frocks you see all the time, with ribbons, rosettes, frills and what-have-you; up close, they reveal themselves to be quite another sort of visual experience altogether, their tactile immediacy and motific outlandishness presenting a sly, subversive shock to the system.
Two thumbs up.
Turned Out II (2011), Jane Lee. Image by Allison Meier for Hyperallergic.
More award-related controversy: two homegrown art acts, Jane Lee and Vertical Submarine, were honoured by this year’s Celeste Prize jury. Lee won in the Painting category for one of her trademark three-dimensional, near-sculptural works, titled Turned Out II (above), and Vert Sub – a.k.a. Yang, Koh and Loke – won the Installation Prize for their A View With a Room (2009).
Lee’s piece stirred a faint sense of deja vu. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it … until, reading the comments over at the Celeste Network’s site, I spotted a couple of pretty irate individuals who basically accused Lee of ripping Eva Hesse off. Even then though it still didn’t quite come to me: which Hesse work exactly was I reminded of ?
A Google search cleared that up: Ringaround Arosie (1965, below), a multi-medial extravaganza of “varnish, graphite, ink, enamel, cloth-covered wire, papier-câché, unknown modeling compound, masonite, wood.”
Ringaround Arosie (1965), Eva Hesse. Image from Hauser & Wirth.
Yeah, sure, Turned Out II does sorta strike an .. evocative note, but I’m perfectly willing to buy that Lee’s claim that she had no prior knowledge of the Hesse piece. (These things do happen.) And anyway, I’m biased: this is the woman responsible for Raw Canvas (2010, below), which appeared in an earlier incarnation at the 2008 Singapore Biennale, and again in the SAM’s Collectors’ Stage exhibition in January this year. (Read my review of the latter here.)
The work is phenomenal. As it appeared at the SAM, Raw Canvas was an absolutely mammoth web of thick, solid skeins of paint (I think – other materials/additives were probably involved), which by some trick of the trade were made to adhere to the surface of an entire wall, transforming a simple structural element into a towering, ceiling-to-floor exercise in stereoscopic synesthesia, a play on the perceptual tensions between two-dimensional appearance and resolutely tactile, three-dimensional reality. In that sense, Lee’s work deconstructs, literally, the painting as an object. The interrogation of the traditional medial supports of paint and canvas is effected at the level of their sheer physical facticity: paint moves from being a tool of utility (the means of pictorial creation) to being an obdurately material existence in its own right, insisting on its own auratic presence as a three-dimensional object in space, the shift occurring not merely as aesthetic affect or formal inflection, but as manifest ontological redirection. In other words, the texture and physicality of the densely knotted field of protuberances here, by its deployment of paint as a sculptural statement, seems to supersede at once those questions of representation and mimesis which attended the rise of abstract painting on the one hand, as well as the discursive reorientation of post-war painting towards the processual paradigm made possible by Pollock’s painterly gestures and Harold Rosenberg’s panegyrics on the other – developments which, despite their break with existing praxis, essentially retained the phenomenon of a flat(-tened) layer of paint on a surface. Raw Canvas, cleverly, occupies the interstitial space between the appearance of two-dimensionality and the actuality of the third dimension; it approximates the appearance of painting, but constitutes the pictorial surface instead with a field of indecipherable tactilities of solid, sculptural paint traces.
It was awesome.
‘Genius’ is perhaps putting it a little strongly, but Lee certainly is very, very good at what she does (ignorance of Eva Hesse’s work notwithstanding).
A review of the APB Prize that I penned for local arts e-zine, The Muse, titled And the Award Goes to the Dullest Painting in the Room.
I mean every word of it.
The Turner Prize has been on my mind, mostly because of the fiasco that was the recent APBF (Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation) Signature Art Prize.
Yes, I’m calling it a fiasco.
I penned a short piece on the topic for a local arts e-zine – I’ll put a link up if and when that appears – but suffice to say that what was probably the most uninspired work in the shortlist ended up walking away with the grand prize, and 45,000 smackeroonies.
I suppose the undeserved win was one thing, but reading the laudatory notices the day after was plenty icky too. (You know who you are.)
In any case, it got me to thinking about the Turner, which prides itself on recognizing the best of cutting-edge contemporary work; in reality, of course, that just ends up causing a whole lot of fuss and noise and, oftentimes, outright fury. There was Martin Creed’s win in 2001 for his empty room where the lights went on and off (painter Jacqueline Crofton was so incensed she egged its walls), and Chris Ofili’s for his elephant dung painting (someone left a heap of manure on the Tate’s steps in protest), and, of course, the annual Stuckist demonstration. Now, I’m not an advocate of controversy for its own sake, but the APBF’s choice this year was simply tragic, a freakish, contrapuntal demonstration of how anodyne and pointless contemporary art can be when stripped of all that it does best – provoking dissent, stirring debate, being irreverent and critical and inscrutable and confrontational all at once …
So I borrowed an idea from the K Foundation: in 1993, these pranksters awarded the anti-Turner Prize prize to the “worst artist of the year”, Rachel Whiteread, who, un-coincidentally, was also that year’s Turner laureate. (Read about the whole hilarious affair here.)
In that spirit, I thought perhaps an Anti-Signature Art Prize Prize was called for.
My pick: Jompet Kuswidananto’s Java’s Machine: Phantasmagoria.
Indonesian artist Kuswidananto’s piece made it to the APBF longlist this year, but no further. Earlier, it was featured in the SAM’s show, It’s Now or Never Part II: New Contemporary Art Acquisitions from Southeast Asia. That was a pretty small exhibition, boasting some twelve works by regional artists, but some of it was spectacular. And the most dramatic and dazzling of the lot was Java’s Machine (below). The piece consists of a regiment of phantom soldiers, their existence as corporeal entities constituted solely by attire, implement and gesture. While these spectral presences, plugged into a power grid, banged on their drums and intoned a staccato, rhythmic chorus, footage of what looked to be antiquated machinery in operation, and a man performing a slow dance against a backdrop of sugarcane fields, played on the walls – soundtrack overlapping soundtrack, organic movement juxtaposed with automated action, deferred performativity set against immediate sensorial experience.
Java’s Machine: Phantasmagoria, Jompet Kuswidananto.
The effect was quite breathtaking.
According to the wall label:
This installation by an emerging Indonesian artist, Jompet Kuswidananto, leaves an indelible impression on the viewer with its scale and audio-visual experience of an encounter with a phantom Javanese royal army. The phantom soldiers in ceremonial procession are clad in Dutch military headgear and Javanese warrior costume in the style of the early 19th century. Accompanied by western percussion based upon Javanese rhythm, the work comments on the syncretic nature of Javanese culture today.
Multisensorial appeal is big in contemporary art these days; it isn’t just about “visuality” anymore. Jompet’s piece, with its ordered phalanx of absent bodies beating out an incantatory, throbbing beat in the otherwise mute space of the gallery, quite literally overwhelms and enraptures the senses; like the verse in the Song of Songs which sings “Thou art beautiful, O my love … terrible as an army with banners”, it unnerves, transfixes, enthralls – an irresistible, visceral force.
High praise, I know, but I was very taken with it.
So, congrats, Mr. Kuswidananto, on your imaginary prize. It’s just one lone voice out here in the vastness of cyberspace, but still a start, hey ?
Just back from the APB Prize announcements.
The winner of the grand prize and the 45 thousand big ones ? – Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya’s Baston Ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero Di Mabilang (Cane Of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted).
My reaction superimposed on the painting, below.
More to come – once my nausea subsides.
The longlist for the second APB prize is out.
A number of Singaporeans were nominated, including the ever awe-inspiring Jane Lee and the Puck-ish Heman Chong. The competition this year has been expanded to include almost all of Asia, and, accordingly, the prize money for the big winner has been upped to a cool forty-five grand SGD.
I wish they’d stop using the term ‘Asia-Pacific’ though; countries like Nepal and Bangladesh (which feature on this year’s list) don’t really fit in there. More importantly, doesn’t a pan-Asian prize in general just sound so much more … impressive, than simply one for the Asia-Pacific region ?
ST write-up below. Longlist of nominees and other pertinent information available over at the SAM’s website.
BREWERY’S ART PRIZE GOES REGIONAL
Prize funding also doubles with more than three times the entries from previous run. By Deepika Shetty.
The triennial Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize is getting bigger. The second edition this year will include nominations from the whole Asia-Pacific region.
The competition will see 130 works from 24 countries vying for the $45,000 grand prize, more than three times the number of entries for its inaugural run in 2008 which featured 34 works from 12 countries.
The APB Foundation has also doubled its prize funding from $2.25 million for five editions to $4.45 million.
As a media briefing held yesterday at SAM at 8Q, Ms Sarah Koh, APB’s general manager for corporate communications, said they were encouraged by the enthusiastic response to the inaugural edition.
She said the foundation decided to expand the focus from South-east Asia to the Asia-Pacific to create opportunities for a wider pool of talented artists from the region.
The prize is aimed at recognising artworks created in the preceding three years and encouraging the development of contemporary art across the region.
Apart from the grand prize, there will there will also be three Juror’s Choice Awards worth $10,000 each and a $10,000 People’s Choice Award.
All artworks have been nominated by art experts in each country and they are being judged by an international jury panel. The jury comprises Fumio Nanjo, director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Gregor Muir, executive director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Hendro Wijanto, South-east Asian writer, critic and curator; Ranjit Hoskote, Indian critic and curator; and Tan Boon Hui, director of the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), which is organising the competition and will be exhibiting the winning artworks ranging from paintings and sculptures to new media and installation works.
The jury will shortlist 15 finalists, whose names will be announced by Oct 1, and an exhibition of their works will open at SAM on Nov 11. The winner will be announced on Nov 18.
Museum director Tan, 41, said: “The expanded reach of this year’s prize enables us to validate and profile even more artists and their practice.”
Seven local artists have been nominated by for the competition by Ms Joanna Lee, an art consultant and independent curator, and Ms Audrey Wong, programme director of the MA Arts and Cultural Programme at Lasalle College of the Arts.
These include several instantly recognisable names such as artist Jane Lee, who made a splash with her massive painting Raw Canvas at the Singapore Biennale in 2008, and award-winning photographer and film-maker Sherman Ong, who won the first Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu award for photography last year. (See side story.)
Also on the nominated list are several big contemporary art names such as leading Pakistani artist Rashid Rani. His work Desperately Seeking Paradise, a conglomeration of numerous miniscule details, was recently on show at the Musee Guimet, France’s national museum of Asian art.
Japanese artist Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Deer#17, which explores how people interact with virtual reality, has also been nominated. The artist sources taxidermied objects from online auction sites and layers them with transparent glass beads. The veil of differently sized glass beads on the surface of the taxidermied animal magnifies it in some areas and distorts it in others. this piece was exhibited in Trans-Cool Tokyo, a show held at SAM at 8Q last November.
Adding to the range and the contest are artists such as Qiu Anxion from China, Sopheap Pich from Cambodia, Eko Nugroho from Indonesia and Tracey Moffatt from Australia.
Said Mr Tan: “The range as well as the quality of the art shows that we are at the heart of the most dynamic region and this award will help us uncover ground-breaking artworks of lasting significance.”
FROM SINGAPORE: SEVEN ARTWORKS
RECONSTRUCTING SENTOL, 2008 – 2010, Khairuddin Hori. Digital print on paper, 14 pieces. Appropriating ideas and images from Mat Sentol films of the 1960s, the artist creates new pictures, giving each one of them a contemporary and often idiosyncratic touch. He juxtaposes real and imagined landscapes with characters from the films.
THE GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS, 2010, by art collective Vertical Submarine. Installation. Inspired by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story of the same name about a maze, this tongue-in-cheek installation was shown by artist jason Wee’s art space, Grey Projects, in Zion Road. The constructed labyrinths led to rooms that alluded to central characters in Borges’ story.
SECOND-HAND CITY, 2010, by Michael Lee. Digital print on archival paper, set of 10. Melding science fiction with cultural studies, the series Second-Hand City (2010 – 2011) weaves several themes in contemporary life and art in the city. These range from the demolition or collapse of structures to their physical disappearance and destruction by war or natural processes, and statuses of being abandoned, not built and forgotten. this leads a refreshing exploration of the lifecycles of buildings and cities.
TOGETHER AGAIN (WOOD: CUT) PART I NATURAL HISTORY & TOGETHER AGAIN (WOOD: CUT) PART II MAGIC, 2009, by Lucy Davis. Woodcut, woodprint collage and woodprint. Breathing new life into the term “dead wood”, visual artist Davis collected discarded wooden objects from the streets around Little India. She then transferred their woodgrains onto rice paper. this was eventually used to form tree-shaped collages and the work beautifully blended ecology with everyday stories.
A SHORT STORY ABOUT GEOMETRY, 2009, by Heman Chong. Performance involving the oral transmission of a 499-word story written by the artist via physical face-to-face encounter between two people. Focusing on a more intimate and concentrated exchange, the work is a private memory class. A participant with the help of a teacher is required to memorise a 499=word short story. The short story will not be published or adapted into any other form.
BANJIR KEMARAU (FLOODING IN THE TIME OF DROUGHT), 2009, by Sherman Ong. Video in two separate rooms, 92 minutes each. Some time in the near future, when 40 per cent of Singapore’s population is made of foreigners, the tap runs dry. Ong’s actors speak in Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Indonesian, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Italian and some German. Through their fears, he reveals what a water crisis can mean for ordinary people living here.
STATUS, 2009, by Jane Lee. Mixed media. Lee continues her artistic exploration through layers of paint. Like her earlier painting, Raw Canvas, which was featured at the Singapore Biennale in 2008, this work is also created with her trademark squiggles of paint and parts of it look like a loosely woven piece of fabric.
A title that fawning can really only be sardonic, no ? <lol>
The obvious truth is, I don’t much care about, or for, UOB’s Painting of the Year competition.
Which is my way of warning readers that this is going to be one long roast.
The whole idea of one of the nation’s top art prizes being solely for painting is pretty bizarre — not to mention retrogressive. How large is Singapore’s pool of decent artists that UOB feels an award just for painters indeed “encourage[s] local artists to persist in their creative endeavours, and provide[s] recognition for the best creative works” ? (In their own words.) This may or may not be news to a bunch of bankers, but the “best creative work” these days isn’t necessarily produced on canvas. Besides, if the roll call of past winners is anything to go by — the complete list at the end of the post — the organisers and judging committees have had issues with their own categories: the 1987 laureate, for one, was Baet Yeok Kuan’s Man and Environment I (below), a mash-up of various found objects and plaster casts of faces, all tied up with twine like one giant, unwieldy postal package. I mean, Baet’s piece can be considered painting only in the broadest, most generous sense; otherwise, it’s pretty much what it looks like, a Rauschenberg-ian ‘combine’ of the two- and three-dimensional. Then there was the photography debate: for two years running, in 2007 and 2008, the prize was handed out to photographic works, Anatomical Fantasies of Meat by Joel Yuen, and Zhao Renhui’s Space In Between #1, #6, #63, respectively. And last year’s winner, 18-year-old Bai Tian Yuan’s What (below), was based on a photograph, which also raised a furor — apparently by folks who’d never heard of the photorealist movement, or pictorial tools like Durer’s grid (imagine how Raphael would’ve reacted to Durer’s lil’ invention).
Bai Tian Yuan and her winning entry, What (2010). Image from Flickr user ArtSingapore Fair 2010.
Those couple of admirable blips aside, the favoured UOB strategy has mostly been one of safe, static picture-making. And this year’s honour roll, now on display at the Jendela gallery at the Esplanade, doesn’t buck the trend. Granted, the actual winning entry is pretty good: Gong Yao Min – who now joins Kit Tan Juat Lee as one of two two-time winners – used Chinese ink on rice paper to depict a dense cityscape of skyscrapers and colonial structures, which rise like a phantasmagoric megalopolis above scenes of local roads and traffic (below). Titled My Dream Land, the combination of craftsmanship, traditional Chinese materials, a modern sensibility, and patriotic fervour on the part of an immigrant (Gong moved here from China in the ’90s) probably proved too potent a mix for the judges. The other winning works though, were, well … let’s just say it — pedestrian. Ong Jie Yi’s Old Haunt (below), for one, which won a Platinum award and 10,000 SGD, was about as insipid as it gets. A torn poster of the Haunted Changi movie — which also sucked, by the way — and close-ups of peeling paint and shadows of leaves were intended to convey a sense of dereliction and eeriness. And that’s all there is to it: cliched imagery and banal sentiment. Lester Lee’s The Idea of Great Success (below) received a Highly Commended Award, and 2,500 SGD; as the monetary aspect suggests, it was even less interesting than Ong’s work. An amateurish portrait of some hybrid creature, along with symbols gesturing at conventional notions of personal success, it too married idea, image, and execution in one uninspired chain of epic blandness.
I always knew the UOB laureates weren’t terribly compelling, but this was beyond the pale.
I wonder if UOB realizes that stuff like this is just reinforcing every negative stereotype out there about how démodé it is. On the economic front, a hyper-aggressive, rapidly expanding Citibank is pretty much giving it a run for its market share, and it’s continued efforts at corporate sponsorship of the arts in such an .. unenlightened manner isn’t doing it any favours in the public eye. If it wasn’t for the 30 grand in cash they were doling out, I wonder if anyone would care about the award at all …
Artist Gong Yao Min with his work, My Dream Land. Image from TODAYonline.
Old Haunt, Ong Jie Yi. Image from thinking, reflecting.
The Idea of Great Success, Lester Lee. Image from For Art’s Sake! (The scorecard reflects the grade that the painting received from one of Martin’s readers – which was 1 out of 5.)
A companion exhibition, titled Beyond A Prize, is currently showing at the ION Art gallery, located on the fourth floor of the mall. It features their winners from 1982 — when the award was first given out — to 2000, the more recent entries having had their own show last year, which I missed. (A pity — it would’ve been great to see Yuen’s piece in the flesh, or Namiko Chan Takahashi’s Charisse, a nude portrait which looks amazing even in reproduction.) Nonetheless, the work of several of the older laureates definitely still held their own. The highlight of the afternoon for me was Anthony Poon’s Waves (below) from 1983, a large, aquamarine-coloured canvas featuring his signature motif, punctiliously plotted on a grid, its patterning and colour scheme of cool hues clearly calculated to rhyme and dance and pulsate. Wee Shoo Leong’s Yuen (Affinity) (below) was also a revelation — why haven’t we heard or seen more from him lately ? — a calm, phlegmatic, carefully delineated still-life of various objects on a desktop, the most salient of which is an empty birdcage, posed before an expansive wall of blank space.
Those, however, were few and far in between. True to form, the show was mostly a display of UOB’s utter lack of imagination when it comes to being a corporate collector. Chng Chin Kang’s She Loves Me But She’s Not My Mummy (below), which was awarded the prize in 1998, deserves the lion’s share of brickbats here. It’s not a bad work, really, the artist’s choice of floral fabric as canvas even demonstrating a certain flair, but as far as being “Painting of the Year” goes, it’s dismal. The theme is obvious to a fault — yes, being raised largely by foreign domestic help is causing an emotional disconnect between parents and children these days, everyone knows that, it’s like saying “How awful it is that there’s war in this world” — but, even worse, the figures simply had no life to them. A quick comparison with Fan Shao Hua’s 2000 winner, They (below), hung on a wall nearby, which also depicts the sundering of familial bonds, throws the limitations of Chng’s vision into relief: Fan borrows a couple of Post-Impressionist techniques from Degas, employing a telling use of compositional space and unexpected figural cropping to drive his message home. Next to it, Chng’s figures just look sterile, and the work hackneyed. Likewise, Hong Zhu An’s Yi-Er-San (One, Two, Three) (below), which, according to the label, features the prominence of the calligraphic line as a means of conveying “the mystique of a transcendental world”, was pretty unimaginative, despite a couple of original touches, like the lopping off of the line midway, or the use of calligraphy on a near-abstract background of oil paint. Chua Ek Kay’s My Haunt (below), the 1991 laureate, which perhaps is a more traditional use of Chinese ink, manages to convey the serene sense of place and wistful nostalgia that his works are known for, yet comes across as simply being more dynamic than Hong’s hippie-ish pictorial platitudes and threadbare sentiments.
And the less said about stinkers like Soh Chee Hui’s Blue Balloon (1992′s winner), Kit Tan’s Endless Love (her first win from 1997) and Lim Poh Teck’s City (1990), the better.
Again, this should be stressed: these aren’t bad works per se, but to valorize them as the cream of the local crop by handing out undeserved laurels and moolah just seems like utter mockery, or ignorance — or both.
UOB Painting of the Year winners
1982 – Goh Beng Kwan, The Dune
1983 – Anthony Poon, Waves
1984 – Wee Shoo Leong, Yuen (Affinity)
1985 – Ng Keng Seng, Steps
1986 – Sandy Wong, Exhibit ‘86
1987 – Baet Yeok Kuan, Man and Environment I
1988 – Ang Yian Sann, One’s Habitat
1989 – Lim Tiong Ghee, From the Turtledove
1990 – Lim Poh Teck, City
1991 – Chua Ek Kay, My Haunt
1992 – Soh Chee Hui, Blue Balloon
1993 – Raymond Lau, Echoes of the Window (I)
1994 – Hong Zhu An, Yi-Er-San (One, Two, Three)
1995 – Tan Chin Chin, The Statue of Gods, 1995
1996 – Chen Shi Jin, Root
1997 – Kit Tan, Endless Love
1998 – Chng Chin Kang, She Loves Me But She’s Not My Mummy
1999 – Tan Kay Nguan, Trifling Matter
2000 – Fan Shao Hua, They
2001 – Erzan B Adam, It’s Hip 2 B Square
2002 – Gong Yao Min, The Impression of Singapore, Series Three
2003 – Luis Lee, Packed
2004 – Kit Tan, The World of Xi You Ji
2005 – Alvin Ong, The Window
2006 – Namiko Chan Takahashi, Charisse
2007 – Hong Sek Chern, Aspects of the City II
2008 – Joel Yuen, Anatomical Fantasies of Meat
2009 – Zhao Renhui, Space In Between #1, #6, #63
2010 – Bai Tian Yuan, What
2011 – Gong Yao Min, My Dream Land