Two artists in the Singapore Biennale win prizes

Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee took home the Benesse Prize, which comes with a three million yen (S$37,400) cash reward and a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at Benesse Art Site Naoshima.
Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee took home the Benesse Prize, which comes with a three million yen (S$37,400) cash reward and a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at Benesse Art Site Naoshima. PHOTO: PANNAPHAN YODMANEE
Guests viewing SONICreflection, an exhibit by Singapore sound artist Zulkifle Mahmod at the Singapore Art Museum on Oct 26, 2016.
Guests viewing SONICreflection, an exhibit by Singapore sound artist Zulkifle Mahmod at the Singapore Art Museum on Oct 26, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

Two artists participating in the Singapore Biennale have received awards for their works.

Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee, 29, beat four other finalists to win the Benesse Prize, which comes with a cash reward of three million yen (S$37,400) and a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at Benesse Art Site Naoshima, an acclaimed art project on the small Japanese islands of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.

The prize is sponsored by Benesse Holdings, a Japanese company with business interests in education, lifestyle and nursing care. It was launched in 1995 at the prestigious Venice Biennale and, until 2013, had been awarded in conjunction with the Italian biennale.

Recipients have included acclaimed artists such as Olafur Eliasson from Denmark, Rirkrit Tiravanija from Thailand and Cai Guoqiang from China.

The 11th edition of the prize, however, is presented with the Singapore Biennale, which opened last October and runs until Feb 26.

At the awards ceremony on Jan 12, an extra prize, the Soichiro Fukutake Prize, was given to Singapore artist Zulkifle Mahmod, 42. The prize, a visit to Benesse Art Site Naoshima, is named after its founder and president.

Mr Fukutake said he came up with the award after seeing Zulkifle's art installation, SONICreflection (2016), at the biennale.

"I was deeply impressed by this particular work, which skilfully incorporates voices and sounds collected from Asian migrant communities in contemporary Singapore," he said.

He added that the work inspires wide-ranging reflections on society, the urban environment and the lives of individuals.

The artistry of Pannaphan's large-scale mixed-media mural, Aftermath (2016), which was commissioned by the biennale, impressed the five-member jury of the Benesse Prize.

Ms Akiko Miki, who heads the jury and is also the international artistic director of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, said: "Pannaphan's painterly, sculptural and architectural work creates a unique, breathtaking landscape by mixing microscopic and macroscopic visions with Buddhist cosmology, traditional and modern techniques, and natural and artificial materials."

The jury, which also includes the biennale's creative director, Dr Susie Lingham, shortlisted five artists from the more than 60 artists exhibiting at the biennale.

The other four finalists are Martha Atienza from the Philippines, Bui Cong Khanh from Vietnam, Ade Darmawan from Indonesia and Qiu Zhijie from China.

On her win, Pannaphan said through a translator: "Having an opportunity to make art is good enough for me. Every time I make an artwork, I always do it as if it were my last piece and I put all my effort into it."

Based in Bangkok and working from home, she plans to use the cash prize to move into a proper art studio.