TWO Singapore-based artists emerged winners in their respective categories at the Prudential Eye Awards, an annual regional art award that honours the finest artists in Asia.
They are Singaporean Donna Ong, who was named Best Emerging Artist Using Installation, and Singapore permanent resident Sherman Ong, who came out tops in the Best Emerging Artist Using Photography category.
Japanese artist collective ChitPom swept the biggest award of the night, the Overall Best Emerging Artist award, besides also topping the Best Emerging Artist Using Digital/Video category.
The other category winners were India's Mithu Sen for drawing, Indonesia's Christine Ay Tjoe for painting and South Korea's Meekyoung Shin for sculpture.
Chinese artist Gu Wenda, famous for his artworks made out of human hair, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award, while FuturePerfect, a gallery in Gillman Barracks, was named Best Gallery Supporting Emerging Asian Contemporary Art. No Country, an exhibition by Guggenheim UBS at Singapore's Centre of Contemporary Art, was named Best Exhibition.
At a black-tie event at Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday evening, each of the individual category winners received US$20,000 and a specially-commissioned trophy; overall winner ChitPom walked away with an additional US$30,000 and the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at the renowned Saatchi Gallery in London.
ChitPom comprises six artist-provocateurs: Ushiro Ryuta, Hayashi Yasutaka, Ellie, Okada Masatake, Inaoka Motumo and Mizuno Toshinori. Their video critique homed in on taboo Japanese topics such as the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster and the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.
Niru Ratnam, director of the Prudential Eye programme and one of the judges, described ChitPom's art as "bucking tradition, transcending national boundaries and relevant both in and beyond Asia".
Singapore's Ms Ong, 36, is one of the country's favourite young artists, and has had works featured in exhibitions here and abroad for 10 years.
She said jokingly: "I can't deny that it's nice to get proof that someone else besides my parents think my work is worth looking at."
Her installations, two of which are now on display at the ArtScience Museum, the event's official partner, are often stunning conglomerations of visual motifs and symbols. She uses a wide variety of materials, from test-tubes to faded photos to discarded dolls, to conjure imaginary, childlike worlds filled with both wonder and peril.
Shutterbug Mr Ong is also no stranger to the Singapore art scene, having fine-tuned his practice for more than a decade. His images are now on show at numerous locations, including the ArtScience Museum and 8Q at Singapore Art Museum.
His works on display at the ArtScience Museum come from his HanoiHaiku series, in which he juxtaposes three images captured in Vietnam and constructs delicate new narratives out of the triptych.
Asked how important awards are to an artist's career, he replied: "I think awards are a good indication that what the artist is doing is valued and that his or her practice is important."
The Prudential Eye Awards, launched a year ago, are a major highlight of the Singapore Art Week. It is a collaboration among life insurance company Prudential, Saatchi Gallery and Parallel Contemporary Art, a non-profit organisation led by European husband-and-wife philanthropists David and Serenella Ciclitira.
The works of the winners and nominees are now on show at ArtScience Museum till March 31.
An exhibition celebrating Singapore art called Singapore Eye runs alongside it.