Indonesian Artist Wins UOB Painting of the Year 2018

Panel of Southeast Asian art industry experts pick Suvi Wahyudianto’s work over Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai contenders
By Tanya Singh

2018 UOB Painting of the Year award ceremony at Victoria Theatre, Singapore. Image courtesy of UOB.

2018 UOB Painting of the Year award ceremony at Victoria Theatre, Singapore. Image courtesy of UOB.

Furthering the organisation’s dedication towards art patronage, the United Overseas Bank (UOB) launched its Painting of the Year (POY) competition in 1982 in Singapore. The annual event is aimed at discovering emerging talent and honouring the creative pursuits of established artists. In recent years, the UOB POY competition has expanded its scope beyond Singapore to include Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Today, as the longest-running art award in Singapore and one of the most prestigious in Southeast Asia, it has significantly contributed to the arts scene not only in Singapore but also in the Southeast Asian region. The alumni from the competition include Singapore masters like Chinese ink painter Chua Ek Kay and internationally acclaimed abstract artist Om Mee Ai, as well as regional headliners like Malaysian figurative painter Gan Tee Sheng and Indonesian artist Antonius Subiyanto.

Now in its 37th year, the competition continues to bring deserving artworks to the limelight. “The UOB POY competition has helped to uncover a new generation of Southeast Asian artists,” says Deputy Chairman and Group CEO of UOB Wee Ee Cheong. “It has also contributed to greater awareness and appreciation of art and to a deeper understanding of the cultural influences across Southeast Asia.”

This year, the award ceremony, held on 1 November at Victoria Theatre in Singapore, honoured some of the most talented emerging and established contemporary artists in the country regional winners of the competition. In his opening speech, Associate Professor Kwok Kian Chow, who sat on the judging panel, addressed the qualities that most stood out during the judging process. He remarked that more than the exceptional use of skill and aesthetics, the artists, both emerging and established, were all beautifully able to create thought-provoking dialogues with their viewers on the most profound and challenging subjects.

Wee Ee Cheong, Mr Baey Yam Keng and Suvi Wahyudianto with his painting 'Angs’t (ANGST)'. Image courtesy of UOB.

Wee Ee Cheong, Mr Baey Yam Keng and Suvi Wahyudianto with his painting 'Angs’t (ANGST)'. Image courtesy of UOB.

2018 UOB Painting of the Year
‘Angs’t (ANGST)’, by Suvi Wahyudianto

Chosen from among the national winners of the UOB Painting of the Year competitions held in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Suvi Wahyudianto’s ‘Angs’t (ANGST)’ investigates themes such as collective memory and social harmony set against the historical backdrop of the inter-ethnic tensions in Sampit, Central Kalimantan in February 2001. Through the work the artist questions the existence of racial differences and begins a dialogue on empathy and social harmony. “I wanted to share the importance of empathy as beneath our skin, we are all made of the same flesh,” explains the artist.

Khairulddin Bin Abdul Wahab, 'Rite of Passage', Acrylic on linen, 130 x 180cm. Image courtesy of UOB.

Khairulddin Bin Abdul Wahab, 'Rite of Passage', Acrylic on linen, 130 x 180cm. Image courtesy of UOB.

2018 UOB Painting of the Year Singapore (Established Artist)
‘Rite of Passage’, by Khairulddin Bin Abdul Wahab

An alumnus of the LASALLE College of the Arts, Khairulddin Bin Abdul Wahab says, “For me, art is a compulsion. I paint because I need to paint.” His artistic practice is informed by a continuous search for inspiration within memories and experiences. The artist uses his works as a form of documentation of traditions and beliefs that are fast diminishing in the face of modernisation.

Inspired by an image found in a family album, ‘Rite of Passage’ seeks to preserve the spiritual teachings and mysticism of Silat Gayong, a style of martial arts. The painting portrays a hot oil bath ritual that the practitioners would subject their bodies to in order to challenge their mental strength and harness their beliefs regarding mystical forces that assist them in withstanding pain.

Hu Jingxuan, 'Encapsulated Time', Mixed media on canvas, 80 x 130cm. Image courtesy of UOB.

Hu Jingxuan, 'Encapsulated Time', Mixed media on canvas, 80 x 130cm. Image courtesy of UOB.

2018 UOB Most Promising Artist of the Year Singapore (Emerging Artist)
‘Encapsulated Time’ - Hu Jingxuan

Hu Jingxuan investigates urban life and its repercussions on the individual identity in her works. Piecing together elements and forms that she encounters in daily life, the artist lays the groundwork for both an internal as well as an external conversation for and with the viewers.

‘Encapsulated Time’ represents a visual journal for the artist recording fragments of architectural and historical elements. The mixed media work is an attempt to navigate the ever-changing landscape of modern life by capturing and weaving experiences and visual forms in a single, manufactured composition.

The winning paintings will be exhibited at the UOB Art Gallery from 9 November 2018 to 28 February 2019.