Singapore artist Robert Zhao shortlisted for Prudential Eye Awards

Singapore conceptual artist Robert Zhao.
Singapore conceptual artist Robert Zhao.PHOTO: ST FILE
Singapore conceptual artist Robert Zhao.
Singapore conceptual artist Robert Zhao.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore artist Robert Zhao has been shortlisted for the annual Prudential Eye Awards, which are now into their third year.

He is among 15 emerging contemporary Asian artists being considered for the regional awards.

They have been selected from over 150 nominees whose works were submitted to a judging panel of seven international art professionals that includes Mr Fumio Nanjo, director of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, and Nigel Hurst, chief executive of London’s Saatchi Gallery.

Mr Niru Ratnam, director of the Prudential Eye Programme which runs the awards, says this year’s shortlist is impressive as “they represent a new generation of artists emerging across Asia".

Indonesian collective indieguerillas have been shortlisted in the installation category. The husband-and-wife collective combine the contemporary with the past, and use superhero icons, mixing their art with narratives from wayang stories. India’s Manish Nai, whose paintings often defy categorisation and are known for their unconventional mix of materials such as jute, is in the painting category. Nai, the son of a jute trader, started by stretching jute directly onto a stretcher and has been winning international acclaim for his abstract compositions.

Zhao, together with Bangladesh’s Shumon Ahmed and China’s Zhang Wei, is up for the Best Emerging Artist Using Photography award. All three practitioners explore a particular way of using photography and drawing on the specifics of the locations they work from.

Zhao uses a multi-disciplinary approach by presenting images together with documents and objects. His work is drawn from observation of the natural world but he constructs layered narratives which often raise the question whether they are documentary or fiction. The 33-year-old artist participated in last year's Busan Biennale and Moscow International Biennale of Young Art, and had his work shown at the 2013 Singapore Biennale.

In all, there are five award categories highlighting the breadth, range and diversity of the works made by emerging Asian artists. The total prize money amounts to US$150,000 (S$211,504), of which USD$20,000 as well as a specially commissioned trophy, will be awarded to the winner of each category.

An overall winner will be chosen from winners of the five award categories for the title of Best Emerging Artist, winning a further USD$30,000 and a solo exhibition at START, Saatchi Gallery in London.

The awards were founded by British-Italian art lovers David and Serenella Ciclitira, in partnership with insurance firm Prudential and Saatchi Gallery.

They recognise the best emerging artists working with various media, and also shine the spotlight on leading art institutions and exhibitions.

The shortlist for the Best Asian Contemporary Art Institution includes the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (Singapore), Para Site (Hong Kong), Spring Workshop (Hong Kong) and the land foundation (Thailand).

The winners will be announced at a glittering award ceremony on Jan 19 at MasterCard Theatres - Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands.