Filipino Futures: Ateneo Art Awards
By Marlyne Sahakian
This year, the Ateneo Art Gallery in Quezon City, the Philippines, held the tenth edition of its prestigious Ateneo Art Awards, which recognize young Filipino artists under the age of 36 for outstanding exhibitions in the previous year. On August 8, out of a shortlist of 12 artists, three winners were announced: Raffy Napay for his exhibition “Thread Experience” at West Gallery; Charles Buenconsejo for “Reality is a Hologram” at Art Informal; and Buen Calubayan for “Fressie Capulong” shown at Blanc Peninsula. Each artist was awarded a studio residency grant at one of the museum’s institutional partners as well as the opportunity to exhibit their work in a group show at the art gallery (now on view through December 7).
Son of a seamstress and a motorized tricycle driver, Napay depicts images from his modest upbringing using needle and thread. In both The Family (2013) and The Harvest (2013), manic stitching mimics bold brush strokes as Napay renders sweeping landscapes populated by ghost-like human figures that represent his family. Napay will take up residence at the Artesan Gallery in Singapore before heading to the Liverpool Hope Creative Campus residency in the United Kingdom.
Charles Buenconsejo, a commercial photographer, impressed the jury with his analogue technique which exhibits a tactile feel. In A Thousand Stars Burst Open 1 (2012), the image of the galaxy is first printed on ceramic tiles, then shattered on the floor before finally being photographed. In In A Different Time and Place 2 (2012), the subject of the photograph is the artist’s father with an organic shape cut out of the portrait, alluding to notions of absence.
Creating work that is more conceptually driven, Buen Calubayan exhibits a painting series that dates back to his university years. Presenting these unsold works is Calubayan’s attempt to reconcile doubts concerning his career as an artist. Several portraits are also presented, including one of the artist as a child dressed in religious regalia. Calubayan received a residency grant from the Visual Arts Centre at La Trobe University in Australia.
In addition to its recognition of artists, this year the Ateneo Art Awards unveiled a new category. Named after the arts writer and patron Purita Kalaw-Ledesma, who also founded the Art Association of the Philippines, the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Foundation Award for Art Criticism acknowledges the need to further cultivate critical dialogue in the Philippines. Awardees will be granted a regular column in a major daily newspaper, in addition to a monetary prize. In other news, the Ateneo Art Awards' visual art prize will soon be renamed the Fernando Zóbel Visual Art prize, in honor of the artist and founding benefactor of the Ateneo Art Gallery.