Singapore's richest and longest running painting prize returns for its 33rd year

German- born, Singapore permanent resident Stefanie Hauger and her winning painting, Space Odyssey, which won both the newly introduced United Overseas Bank (UOB) South-east Asian Painting of the Year Award, and the UOB Painting of the Year Award (Si
German- born, Singapore permanent resident Stefanie Hauger and her winning painting, Space Odyssey, which won both the newly introduced United Overseas Bank (UOB) South-east Asian Painting of the Year Award, and the UOB Painting of the Year Award (Singapore). Artists eager to bag Singapore's richest painting award of US$25,000 (S$31,220) at the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Painting Of The Year competition, will now have double the usual length of time to come up with a winning piece of work. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

Artists eager to bag Singapore's richest painting award of US$25,000 (S$31,220) at the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Painting Of The Year competition, will now have double the usual length of time to come up with a winning piece of work.

Entry forms for the annual contest, which is into its 33rd year, are available from Wednesday, almost four months before the final date of submission on October 12. The forms may be accessed online at www.uobpoy.com or picked up at all UOB branches here.

Original paintings created as early as two years ago are eligible for submission.

The contest, which has regularly tweaked its rules over the years to finetune the competition, will not, however, introduce major changes to its criteria this year.

The rules were previously modified in 2011 to exclude photography and focus on painting, after photographs won the award in 2008 and 2009.

And last year, the previous competition categories of "youth" and "open" were replaced by the categories "emerging artist" and "established artist". The aim: to level the field of competition and ensure that artists of similar levels of experience can compete alongside each other.

The revamp followed an upset win in 2012 by a 17-year-old student Esmond Loh, which marked the third time in eight years that the top prize had gone to someone 18 or younger.

The emerging category is open to all aspiring artists, from arts students to enthusiasts. The title of Most Promising Artist Of The Year, which comes with a prize of US$3,000, will be picked from this group of entrants.

In the established category, artists have to fulfil at least one of three criteria: be represented by a gallery; have exhibited their paintings in solo or group exhibitions; or have received art awards; the last criterion is a new addition. Last year, eligibility in this category also included having been commissioned to produce an artwork, or having produced a personal catalogue of one's works.

The top prize, Painting Of The Year, worth US$25,000, will be selected by a panel of judges from submissions in the "established artist" category.

The revision of rules last year though, did not stop the competition from attracting divisive views on the merits of the contest and the winning work.

Former German interior designer Stefanie Hauger snagged both Singapore's Painting Of The Year Award, as well as the contest's South-east Asian Painting of the Year Award, a US$10,000 prize introduced last year to raise the profile of contemporary art in the region.

Hauger, a 44-year-old permanent resident, won for her 170cm by 170cm acrylic on canvas painting, Space Odyssey. The work, a contemporary interpretation of a mandala, a concentric circular diagram that helps focus attention during meditation, was made by pouring paint on the canvas and rotating the canvas.

The painting drew praise from the judges, Susie Lingham, director of the Singapore Art Museum; international auction house Sotheby's director for China and South-east Asia Mok Kim Chuan; and art veteran Chua Soo Bin, founder of SooBin Art International, for pushing boundaries in the medium. But some viewers criticised it for its lack of technique.

Hauger has since gone on to produce a body of work for her first solo show that runs until August 1 at the UOB Art Gallery in the lobby of UOB Plaza One in Raffles Place. The newly refurbished gallery, which used to display pieces from the bank's collection of 1,500 works, is now dedicated to showcasing artworks produced by past winners of the competition.

Submissions for the contest are judged on four criteria: message, composition, creativity and technique. Ms Bridget Tracy Tan, director of the Institute of South-east Asian Arts at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, has been named as one of the three judges for Singapore this year.

On the public debate over the winning works in recent years, Ms Tan, 40, who was previously a judge of the contest in 2006, says: "It signals that the community is more interested, it's not just about a niche audience or stakeholder. The larger community is finding its voice."

lijie@sph.com.sg

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