Tue, 14 May 2002

RI artists leave ASEAN awards trophy-less

Tantri Yuliandini, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali

This year's ASEAN Arts Awards, which took place here on May 9, were a complete disappointment for the host country, Indonesia, whose five entrants won no recognition.

"It's a shame. I am disappointed," said artist Ay Tjoe Christine, whose work Pilgrim King (pencil, pastels and gouache on canvas) was nominated.

With a total of US$150,000 in prize money, there is a reason the ASEAN Art Awards have been called the Rolls Royce of art competitions in the region.

On top of cash prizes for the top five winners at the respective national levels -- in Indonesia's case a total of Rp 90 million (about $9,677) -- the lure of the $15,000 grand prize and the $5,000 juror's choice awards for five winners is overwhelming.

Another Indonesian artist, S. Teddy D., even apologized to the public for not winning a prize, and added a mournful "I won't be getting married this year after all".

However, what perhaps was more valuable than the prize money was the experience, the exposure to and the interactions with so many leading art administrators, artists and thinkers.

Just take a look at the lineup of judges for this year's awards, lead by artist and cultural commentator Patricia Hoffie of Australia.

There was artist and writer Yulin Lee from Taiwan; Emily Sano, the director of the Asian Museum in San Francisco; art writer, broadcaster and television and cinema consultant Philippe Piguet of France; and Han-Kook Kim of Korea, an artist and a professor at Kangnung National University.

None of the judges came from participating countries to ensure neutrality, the corporate affairs manager of PT Philip Morris Indonesia, Geroard Jusuf said, adding that it was also hoped the artworks could be exhibited across the globe with the help of the international panel of judges.

"I entered (the competition) looking for experience; I wanted to know how far my work has progressed compared to other artists," Christine said.

Not winning a prize herself, she views the awards as a good opportunity to interact with artists from other countries, and to study the trends and the impacts of their respective societies on their work.

"I realize now just how much the environment effects an artist's work; with a different environment the resulting artwork is also very different. But we all have our own strengths and individual abilities," Christine reflected.

The ASEAN Art Awards, sponsored by the Philip Morris Group of Companies, was first organized in 1994 to promote contact and interaction between the arts communities in the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

The competition is open to artists above the age of 18 from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. New ASEAN members Laos and Cambodia only took part in the exhibition.

Over the years, the awards have had a positive impact on the development of ASEAN art; after taking part as observers in 1998, the following year Laos held its first national painting competition, formed the Laos Association of Artists and opened more galleries in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

The awards have attracted more than 20,000 artists and 250,000 art enthusiasts to interact, experience and share their love of art with one another, said the president of Philip Morris Asia Ltd., Ellis Woodward.

This year's grand prize winner, Singapore's Francis Ng Teck Yong, was another eye-opener for the region's art world. The 26- year-old's winning work, titled Constructing Construction #1, is actually a 183 x 4 cm color photographic print (C-type).

It was the first photograph to ever win a prize in the history of the ASEAN Art Awards.

Changes in competition rules during the last few years have brought a wider range of creativity to the competition, including in the choices of material.

"Although the competition stipulates that works should be two- dimensional, artists in this competition have continued to stretch the rules in terms of materials and treatment," one of the judges, Patricia Hoffie, said.

Media extended from computer parts to natural fibers, from traditional oil on canvas to assemblage and photography, all of which are acceptable and in line with international art criteria, Emily Sano, a judge from the United States, said.

The five juror's choice winners were Jaruwat Boonwaedlom of Thailand with New Vision on Culture (oil on canvas); Benjamin Dayrit Elayda III of the Philippines with Valorized and Commodified Curio (mixed media); Aung Myint of Myanmar with Homage to Mothers (acrylic on shan paper and canvas); Mohammad Suhaimi bin Tohid of Malaysia with Journey (mixed media); and Nguyen Quoc Huy of Vietnam with Liberation Road (lacquer).

An exhibition of the works from this year's awards were put on display at the Bali International Convention Center in Nusa Dua, Bali, from May 9 to May 11. The exhibition will then move to the ASEAN Secretariat in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, from May 27 to June 8.