Au Sow Yee (Malaysia), The Kris Project, 2016 — Based extensively on archival material, Malaysian artist Au Sow Yee’s mixed media installation The Kris Project (2016) reimagines history by collapsing the divide between fact and fiction. Juxtaposing found footage from existing films with documentaries of wartime Malaya, the resulting narrative presents a fragmented, hypothetical history of Southeast Asia.
Bae Young-whan (South Korea), Abstract Verb – Can you remember?, 2016 — A contemporary take on traditional rituals, South Korean artist Bae Young-whan’s four-channel video, titled Abstract Verb – Can you remember? (2016), features a feather-clad performer dancing and gyrating to a pounding, percussive beat – an interpretation of shamanistic dance rituals of various communities for an MTV age.
Chikako Yamashiro (Japan), Mud man, 2016 — Japanese artist Chikako Yamashiro’s Mud man (2016) addresses issues of cultural identity, geopolitics and the persistence of historical memory. Through a video shot in Okinawa and Jeju Island, the work features a lyrical and enigmatic narrative of a community of people awakened to poems of their history, nature, and other similar communities.
Club Ate (Bhenji Ra + Justin Shoulder) (Australia), Ex Nilalang (Balud, Dyesebel, Lola ex Machina), 2015 — Ex Nilalang (Balud, Dyesebel, Lola ex Machina) (2015) by Australian artist collective Club Ate, comprising Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra, is a video trilogy that reimagines Filipino myth and popular culture as celebratory narratives, drawing upon the artists’ personal experiences as Filipino-Australians in an exploration of cultural and gender identity.
Fang Wei-wen (Taiwan), Republic of Rubber Tape, 2016 — Taiwanese artist Fang Wei-wen’s Republic of Rubber Tape (2016), features a structure that recalls his childhood home: the Kampong Ayer (Malay for “water village”) in Brunei Darussalam, built entirely of wooden stilt houses and connecting walkways. Tape that surrounds the installation recalls countries’ boundaries as depicted in maps, portraying an imaginary realm inspired by the artist’s adolescence.
Gede Mahendra Yasa (Indonesia), After Paradise Lost #1, 2014 — A painting teeming with depictions of everyday life in Bali, interspersed with the artist’s own versions of famous paintings from Western and Indonesian art history, Indonesian artist Gede Mahendra Yasa’s After Paradise Lost #1 (2014) portrays an entire imaginary universe. The work also serves as a political analogy, with divisions between important figures of history and ordinary crowds broken down.
Jitish Kallat (India), The Infinite Episode, 2016 — Sculptures of 20 sleeping animals make up Indian artist Jitish Kallat’s The Infinite Episode (2016), depicting a zoological utopia, where the state of rest renders aspects of size, location and hierarchy irrelevant. The work prompts questions on coexistence and inequity – urgent issues that remain relevant to the human species.
Leung Chi Wo + Sara Wong (Hong Kong), Museum of the Lost and He was lost yesterday and we found him today, 2015 — Museum of the Lost and He was lost yesterday and we found him today (2015) by Hong Kong-based husband-and-wife duo Leung Chi Wo + Sara Wong, portrays unidentifiable figures in a series of staged photographs that are based on images from their collection of archival material. Through the amplified presentation of these minor characters forgotten by history, the work questions the biases of historical representation.
Mata Aho Collective (New Zealand), Kaokao no.1, 2014 — Kaokao #1 (2014) by Mata Aho Collective from New Zealand is a sprawling installation of high-visibility tape produced from a form of Māori weaving, and featuring a chevron-sharped design called a kaokao. Conflating the military association of the chevron with the traditional use of the kaokao pattern on birthing mats, the artwork is a tribute to the strength and endurance of women.
Phan Thao Nguyen (Vietnam), Tropical Siesta, 2015-2017— Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen’s Tropical Siesta (2015–2017), is a 2-channel video installation that tells an imaginary tale of a rural Vietnam populated only by children. Set in an agricultural community, they reenact the observations recorded by French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (considered the father of the romanised Vietnamese script) as he travelled through Vietnam in the 17th century.
Thasnai Sethaseree (Thailand), Untitled (Hua Lamphong), 2016 — Alluding to the recent socio-political turmoil in his home country, Thai artist Thasnai Sethaseree’s Untitled (Hua Lamphong) (2016) is a vibrant collage of coloured paper streamers overlaid on a canvas of Buddhist monks’ robes, enfolding into its surface images of modern architecture, political violence in Thailand and printed texts of the new Thai Constitution, fusing symbols of everyday life and political upheaval.
The Propeller Group (Vietnam), AK-47 vs. M16, 2015 — Vietnamese-American artist collective The Propeller Group’s AK-47 vs. M16 (2015) is a re-creation of the one in a billion chance of two bullets, shot from opposing sides of a battle, colliding into each other. The colliding bullets from an AK47, invented by the Soviets, and an M16, the brainchild of the U.S. army, highlights the horrifying scale of wartime and political violence throughout 20th century history.
Yerbossyn Meldibekov (Kazakhstan), Brand, 2014-2015 — Kazakh artist Yerbossyn Meldibekov’s Brand (2014–2015) comprise a series of leather panels crafted from the branded hide of the grunting ox, a species native to the highlands of Central Asia. Juxtaposing the use of natural materials from the region against the iconography of numeric symbols, the work also bears darker connotations, such as to similar atrocities committed during the second World War.
Yuichiro Tamura (Japan), Milky Bay 裏切りの海, 2016 — An installation comprising concrete sculpture fragments, found objects and several videos, Japanese artist Yuichiro Tamura’s Milky Bay / 裏切りの海 (2016) explores the image and the idea of the body, based on the life of famed Japanese author, Yukio Mishima. Also informning the work are various narratives that make reference to episodes of post-war history in which bodies and the male physique feature prominently.
Shubigi Rao (Singapore), Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book. Vol I: Written in the Margins (2014–2016) (2014–2016), 2014-2016 — Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao’s interactive installation, Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book. Vol I: Written in the Margins (2014–2016) (2014–2016), interrogates issues surrounding the destruction of books and libraries. The installation includes drawings, a book on the topic written by the artist herself, and a series of videos featuring testimonies from individuals involved in such incidents, such as firefighters who tried to save libraries on fire, and cultural workers who smuggled books and paintings to safety.
Every three years, Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), the company that puts drinks like Tiger Beer in millions of tankards, and the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore’s definitive modern art museum, come together to recognise outstanding examples of contemporary art from artists within the Asia Pacific region. Dubbed the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize, the 2018 edition recently announced its list of finalists — works by a mix of established and emerging talents — counting, for the first time, artists beyond Asia Pacific, to include Central Asia as well.
The 15 finalist artworks for the Prize’s fourth edition were selected from 113 artworks nominated from over 40 countries and territories, namely Australia, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Ranging from paintings to videos, the finalist artworks span the length, breadth and diversity of the Asian continent, and were picked out by a panel of eminent jurors, comprising Chief Curator of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, Mami Kataoka; President of Kochi Biennale Foundation, Bose Krishnamachari; Head of Content and Senior Curator at Singapore Art Museum, Joyce Toh; Director of National Gallery of Australia, Dr Gerard Vaughan; and artist and independent curator, Wong Hoy Cheong.
Recipients of the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize 2018 — a grand prize winner, two jurors’ choice award winners and a people’s choice award winner — will be announced on June 29.
Art lovers can first head to the National Museum of Singapore, the venue supporter for the Prize’s finalist exhibition, to view the 15 works in the flesh from May 25 to September 2, 2018. Over the course of the exhibition, there will also be artist performances, artist dialogue sessions, panel discussions with the jurors, and various talks with artists, specialists and representatives from the art community, all of which will delve deeper into contemporary art practices of the region, as well as the themes explored by the artworks.
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UPDATE (29 June):
Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen’s Tropical Siesta, a two-channel video installation that tells an imaginary tale of a rural Vietnam populated only by children, takes home the grand prize. Two Jurors’ Choice Awards go to Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao’s Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book. Vol I: Written in the Margins (2014–2016) and Thai artist Thasnai Sethaseree’s Untitled (Hua Lamphong). While Indonesian artist Gede Mahendra Yasa’s After Paradise Lost #1 wins the People’s Choice Award.
For a full list of the Prize’s finalist artworks, simply click on the images below to go on a guided virtual art gallery tour with commentaries by the jurors.