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Singaporean clinches UK art prize

Roof Terrace, a painting by Chloe Ong, was inspired by her travels to Moroccan cities such as Marrakesh and Fez.
Roof Terrace, a painting by Chloe Ong, was inspired by her travels to Moroccan cities such as Marrakesh and Fez. PHOTO: MAX SHEN

Chloe Ong wins the Young Artist Award, given to an artist who is 25 years old or under, at the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize

A sun-drenched painting of Moroccan rooftops has helped a young Singaporean artist to shine at a major British art prize.

Chloe Ong, 23, won the Young Artist Award last Monday at the prestigious Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize for her painting, Roof Terrace.

She was among 83 artists from across the United Kingdom shortlisted for the main £15,000 (S$27,350) prize, which went to Pablo Castaneda Santana for his painting EHS.

The Young Artist Award, which is worth £4,000, is presented to an artist who is 25 years of age or under.

Ong, who is doing her postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, says over the telephone that she had not expected to win anything. It was her second attempt at the prize.

"I was just happy to be shortlisted. It's very hard to come by opportunities like this for young foreign artists in the UK as most are reserved for citizens."

Roof Terrace was inspired by her travels last year to Moroccan cities such as Marrakesh and Fez, where she was constantly invited by friendly locals to go up to their roof terraces, which had "stunning views of the medinas, of that summer heat and light".

Judge Daphne Todd, the first female president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, praised the "incredibly exuberant" piece.

I was just happy to be shortlisted. It’s very hard to come by opportunities like this for young foreign artists in the UK as most are reserved for citizens.

CHLOE ONG, who did not expect to win anything at the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize

"To be able to make light out of just pigment, when every colour is modified by sunlight, is just wonderful," she said in a statement.

As part of her win, Ong will have her work exhibited at London's Mall Galleries until Saturday.

The annual prize, which was created in 2005 by the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers and the Lynn Foundation, recognises skill in draughtsmanship and representational painting, or art that seeks to capture the real world.

It is open to any artist resident in the UK who paints or draws works of representational art and is older than 18 years old.

More than 1,140 artists entered this year's competition - the highest number in the prize's history.

Ong, whose main influences include the renowned ink painters Wu Guanzhong and Singaporean Chua Ek Kay, began painting as a young child, taking lessons from a neighbour who was a part-time artist.

Her interest in depicting the built environment developed seven years ago, when she started looking for old or abandoned buildings around Singapore.

Her work, Old Haunt, of a ruined building near Arab Street that disappeared a month or two after she painted it, received the Platinum Award at Singapore's UOB Painting of the Year in 2011.

She is now creating work inspired by artificial nature.

In December last year, she and her boyfriend, architecture student Max Shen, won first prize at the Shelter International Architectural Design Competition in Tokyo with their model for an alternative city farm.

"I hope one day to be internationally recognised as a Singaporean painter," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2018, with the headline 'Singaporean clinches UK art prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe