An artist can evolve at any stage of his life or career, as long as
the diversity of his works grips people, says Honor Harger, a judge of
the Prudential Eye Awards.
The annual awards, launched in Singapore two years ago, recognize
emerging Asian artists with the potential of reaching a wider
This year, 15 artists, whose ages range from 27 to 44, caught the award committee's attention.
The panel of judges included Nigel Hurst, director of London-based
Saatchi Gallery, the New Delhi-based art writer Rosalyn D'Mello and the
Chinese contemporary artist Gu Wenda.
A ceremony to give the awards was held on Jan 19, and the artworks of
winners and nominees are still on show at the city-state's ArtScience
Museum for public viewing through March 27. Paintings, sculptures,
installations, photos, videos and digital works are among several
categories of exhibits.
"One of the striking aspects about this exhibition is that judges are
looking for the best artists and the best art, subjectively defined.
And one can see very clear linkages and connections among the works,"
says Harger, who is also the museum's executive director.
This year's chosen works show the artists' approach to social,
economic and geopolitical issues and their attempts to convert personal
experiences into universal feelings.
In When Need Moves the Earth, Thai artist Sutthirat Supparinya, who
was nominated in the video and digital category, shows two power
projects in her home country. Through her camera, she talks about the
challenges to the environment posed by the Srinakarin dam and the Mae
Moh lignite mine.
"The two constructions are located in a sensitive geological
environment. I want to explore the impact of human and industrial
activities on the (sites') natural surroundings," she says.
Huang Po-chih, an artist from Taipei, provides a microcosmic insight
into industrialization in Taiwan and on the mainland. His installation
Production Line explores agricultural recession and individuals within
the structures of manufacturing and consumption.
He links his mother's story with the story of "Auntie Huang", another
woman from southern China's Shenzhen city, where many cloth factories
get their money from Taiwan. The two women share a similar background:
Both went to cities from the countryside and ended up working on such
Huang put up a youthful photo of his mother at the exhibition venue
and a photo of the other woman facing away from the visitors. Near them
he has placed a stack of jeans made in the factories of Taipei and
Shenzhen, with the words, "Sorry, I don't have an off today", projected
on a nearby wall.
"In Taiwan, nobody cares about personal stories. People always focus
on the economy, finance and business. That's why I try to look at the
very small universe of individuals," says Huang, who was one of the
Shanghai-based sculptor Yang Mushi also dwells on individuals. His
installation-like sculpture on show, called Grind, displays several
groups of objects in different formations - some look like piles of
timber and some like sharpened pencils. The articles, placed on a large
aluminum plate, took two years to make at a Shanghai factory. He then
darkened their surfaces with lacquer.
He says the objects reflect the various states of his mind.
"I felt rather pessimistic and pained during the production process. I
saw the materials becoming smaller inside the machines, and felt my own
life fritter away."
He sees the process as a confrontation with his "other" side that
easily blends into the social mainstream. He says the work helps him
cool down, release his anxiety and maintain a distance from his
Zhang Wei, a Beijing-based photo artist and awards nominee, says many
young artists today "simply sell ideas or depend on impulse to create".
"But when one reaches middle age, an artist should rely on his experiences to go on."