[WhatsNextSG Arts] Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition 2016 (Review)

by Audrey Kwok
February 19, 2016 by Audrey Kwok

[WhatsNextSG Arts] Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition 2016 (Review)

Take note, art lovers and art investors – here’s a heads-up on the art industry’s rising stars of 2016, brought to you by Prudential Eye Awards.

Back in its third instalment, the Prudential Eye Awards exhibition at the ArtScience Museum showcases the work of the top 15 emerging artists in Asia. Meticulously selected from among more than 100 artist submissions, the artwork spans across five categories: Digital/ Video, Installation, Painting, Photography and Sculpture. Entry to the exhibition is only $12 – a price we felt was more than  reasonable for the quality of work we got to experience.

Img 1A visitor with “Conversation Unknown” (2015) by Aditya Novali

For the uninitiated, the Prudential Eye Awards identifies emerging artists who are poised to develop significant careers on the international stage. The result of a partnership between stellar institutions Parallel Contemporary Art, Saatchi Gallery and Prudential, this year’s judging panel included eminent figures like art critic Rosalyn D’Mello and successful contemporary artist Gu Wenda, most well-known for his groundbreaking installations steeped in Chinese cultural history and which make use of human hair.

Best Emerging Artist using Sculpture
Cambodian artist Sareth Svay (b. 1972) clinched the prize the Sculpture category and also bagged the Overall Best Emerging Artist award, earning him the limelight at this year’s exhibition.

As a result of having spent his formative years in refugee camps, Svay is influenced largely by war-related imagery. Underlying his work is a constant fear that danger is prevalent, even in peaceful times. “Stake or Skewer” appears harmless, but the installation is in fact rooted in political and historical oppression. The black sandals are symbols of corrupted communism and its leaders, and the pole, reminiscent of the ones used by noodle vendors, relates to hierarchy and power play.

Img 2“Stake or Skewer”(2015) by Sareth Svay

We liked Svay’s “Warning House”, a house built out of discarded material and which the artist intended to look like the small house his large family inhabited until the 90’s. The flimsy cardboard appearance betrays a surprisingly solid wooden support (yes, we tried pushing the house – you are not advised to do the same). The realisation was quite heartbreaking – in war, families are at their most fragile and vulnerable, but they also have the propensity to stand strong against all odds.

We also fell in love with a sculpture titled “Grind” by Chinese artist Yang Mushi (b. 1989). “Grind” consists of more than a thousand pieces of wood in different shapes. The pieces were cut, sharpened and polished before they were put together, a process that took up to two years. Our only gripe was that there was a barrier between us and the work such that the shortest distance between the work and visitor was more than a metre apart. We could not get a close look at the wooden detail at all, which was a huge waste considering that the ingenuity of Yang’s work lies exactly in its intricacy.

Img 3“Grind” by Yang Mushi looks gorgeous when sunlight falls on it

Best Emerging Artist using Installation
Taiwan-born artist Huang Po-Chih (b. 1980) bagged the prize for this category with “Production Line – Made in China & Made in Taiwan”. Huang’s work typically criticizes production and consumption on a socio-economic level. In this installation, he recounts his mother’s life as a worker in the farm, then factory, then farm again, showing the impact of economic growth and offshoring in Taiwan. Through the installation, there is the recurring motif of the blue denim shirt. We loved this work because it was so aesthetically pleasing with its use of only monochrome colours and a bright, gorgeous blue.

Img 4“Production Line – Made in China & Made in Taiwan” (2014 – 2015) by Huang Po-Chih

Another installation piece that caught our attention was “Conversation Unknown” by Indonesian artist Aditya Novati (b. 1978). The installation is a collection of over 3,500 portraits by a prominent Indonesian art patron. This was a particularly arresting piece for its sheer effort and the monumentality of having the likeness of thousands of human faces – real yet anonymous, real yet haunting – shelved side by side in a U-shaped cubicle.

Img 5“Conversation Unknown” (2015) by Aditya Novali

Best Emerging Artist using Painting
The winner of this category was Indian artist Manish Nai (b. 1980). Nai’s use of materials is particularly impressive –his go-to materials are cheap or disposable ones such as jute and newspaper, but he somehow manages to elevate them into pleasing, abstract paintings.

Img 6“Billboard Series” (2014) by Manish Nai

We also drawn by the work of Japanese artist Toshiyuki Konishi (b. 1980), whose paintings reminded us of the visceral subjects produced under the brush of figurative painter Francis Bacon. However, while Bacon’s paintings are darker and more menacing with their twisted features and fleshy colours, Konishi’s work is more polished and meticulous.

Img 7A visitor with the paintings of Toshiyuki Konishi

The work of Tawan Wattuya (b. 1973) from Thailand was technically brilliant. In his watercolour painting “Dek Oey Dek Dee”, Wattuya’s strokes show masterful balance of water and paint in achieving the right translucency of skin.

Img 8
“Dek Oey Dek Dee” (2014) by Tawan Wattuya

Best Emerging Artist using Photography
Bangladeshi artist Shumon Ahmed (b. 1977) clinched the win in the photography category. His series “Metal Graves and When Dead Ships Travel” is a haunting documentation of the ship-breaking yards in his home country. Seen in the context of a globalised world and in the clean, white walls of the ArtScience Museum, the photographs are particuarly thought-provoking.

It is notable that local photographer Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983) was also shortlisted in this category. Zhao has been making waves in the global art scene, and his inclusion in the shortlist comes as no surprise.

Best Emerging Artist using Digital/ Video
The winner of the digital category is Hanoi-based independent filmmaker and video/media artist Trinh Thi Nguyen. “Letters from Panduranga” is a eclectic fusion of documentary and fiction, art and ethnography. We felt that this could be viewed with the international nuclear power controversy in mind.

The Verdict
All in all, the Prudential Eye Awards exhibition was a deeply fascinating experience. While the exhibition itself was not very large, it definitely ticked all boxes with the quality of work showcased. Each work was conceptually and aesthetically profound – indeed, we would not have expected any less from the top 15 emerging artists of Asia! The works of these artists deserve to be viewed in their full glory and interpreted on personal level, and it is more than worth it to take a trip down to the ArtScience Museum.

Prudential Eye Awards
ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
10am – 7pm daily (last admission at 6pm)
Adult : S$12
Senior Citizen (65 years & above) : S$10
Child (2-12 years) : S$7
Tickets may be purchased online here

For more information about the exhibition, check out our event listing here

Photo credits: Audrey Kwok for WhatsNextSG


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