Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen wins $60,000 Signature Art Prize

Phan Thao Nguyen's installation of videos and oil paintings titled Tropical Siesta imagines a village populated only by children.
Phan Thao Nguyen's installation of videos and oil paintings titled Tropical Siesta imagines a village populated only by children.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen has won the grand prize of $60,000 at the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize, a triennial award organised by the Singapore Art Museum and sponsored by the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation. The 31-year-old's installation of videos and oil paintings titled Tropical Siesta imagines a village populated only by children.

Three other awards were announced today (June 29) at the awards ceremony at the National Museum of Singapore, attended by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Singapore artist Shubigi Rao, 43, took home a $15,000 juror's choice award for her film-and-print installation on destroyed libraries, Pulp: A Short Biography Of The Banished Book. Vol I: Written In The Margins (2014-2016). Another $15,000 juror's choice award was given to 50-year-old Thai artist Thasnai Sethaseree's paper collage on monk robes, Untitled (Hua Lamphong).

Indonesian artist Gede Mahendra Yasa's detailed acrylic painting, After Paradise Lost #1, won the $10,000 people's choice award by receiving the most votes from visitors. The 51-year-old artist was not present at the ceremony.

All 15 works of art shortlisted for the prize are on display at the museum until Sept 2.

The Signature Art Prize was launched in 2008 by the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation and the Singapore Art Museum to recognise outstanding examples of contemporary art from emerging and established artists in the Asia-Pacific region. This year, the field was enlarged to include Central Asia.

There were 113 nominated works from 46 territories.

Jurors included Ms Mami Kataoka, chief curator of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum; Mr Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation; Ms Joyce Toh, head of content and senior curator at the Singapore Art Museum; Dr Gerard Vaughan, who is director of the National Gallery of Australia; and artist and independent curator Wong Hoy Cheong.

The final selections were based on criteria including strength of the idea and concept; creative use of medium, material and technique; artistic insight and interpretation; and originality of artwork.

Tropical Siesta reimagines rural Vietnam as described by a French Jesuit missionary in the 17th century. Child actors are captured in farming work as well as re-enactments of a folktale. Jurors praised the "poetic" style of the work. Ms Toh called Nguyen "a powerful, poignant storyteller".

She added: "Sensuously visual, the film pulls the viewer into its enigmatic world - a world governed entirely by children. Even as it explores a number of complex issues in Vietnamese history, the work feels fresh and very much alive."