Editor’s Picks: Five Favourites From 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize

Greg Semu, The Death of Captain Cook and other Colonial Catastrophes, 2019–20, archival digital pigment print on photo rag paper, taxidermy butterfly, 150 x 111 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Amol K Patil, Gaze under your skin, 2020, bronze, kinetic sculpture, motor and soil, 27 x 9 x 28 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Fahim Rao, The Shadow of Murgha Punishment (Corporal Punishment Series), 2020, fiberglass, 45 x 25 x 33 cm. Image courtesy of Mahmood Ahmed, the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Greg Semu, The Death of Captain Cook and other Colonial Catastrophes, 2019–20, archival digital pigment print on photo rag paper, taxidermy butterfly, 150 x 111 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Illusively beautiful but extremely horrific, 2020, acrylic, ink, screen print on canvas, 146 x 130 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Mamali Shafahi, Heirloom Velvet, 2020, flocking, epoxy resin on board, 85 x 115 x 10 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
TOP
906
41
0
 
12
May
12
May
KAF

Every year, numerous artists across the Asia-Pacific region throw their hats in the ring for one of the most coveted awards in the arts—the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Now in its 17th year, SAAP continues to celebrate emerging creative talent of the region, with a record breaking number of entries and an ever-growing list of countries. A showcase of works by 30 shortlisted finalists is on view until 16 May, followed shortly by a presentation at Hong Kong’s Art Central art fair.

 

 

TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGE: Courtesy of the artists and The Sovereign Art Foundation

The Sovereign Asian Art Prize (SAAP), run annually by The Sovereign Art Foundation, is considered one of the most coveted awards for mid-career artists across the Asia-Pacific region. Held annually, SAAP was established back in 2003 to increase the international exposure of artists in the region, while raising funds for programmes that support disadvantaged children using expressive arts.

For its 2021 iteration, SAAP received 744 entries of works by artists hailing from 30 countries—which marks a record-breaking number of entries in its 17-year history. The works of 30 finalists—shortlisted by a stellar panel including director David Elliot, journalist and author Georgina Adam, artist Zhang Enli, and art critic John McDonald, are currently showcased at the finalist exhibition in Central, Hong Kong until 16 May. Among the 30 names, Australia has the strongest representation, with five artists shortlisted. The exhibition will later make its way to the grounds of Art Central art fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, joining in on the return of the city’s art week events.

The public will be allowed to cast their votes for their favourite artist to win the Public Vote Prize, which will be announced in late May 2021, along with the winner of the grand prize.

Here are some of the artworks that caught our eyes at the finalist exhibition:

 

Amol K Patil, Gaze under your skin, 2020, bronze, kinetic sculpture, motor and soil, 27 x 9 x 28 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

 

Amol K Patil, Gaze under your skin
Indian artist Amol K Patil works across a vast range of media from drawings and objects to video and performance, all inspired by his own family archives. He is influenced by his father—a playwright and actor who wrote about the plight of migrants and the working class; and his grandfather—a poet who wrote on colonisation.

His shortlisted work, Gaze under your skin, is a kinetic bronze sculpture of a pair of feet, its centre filled with soil that is slowly vibrating and circulating. The effect of the kinetic movement brings to mind the act of breathing and the effect of hard labour on a worker’s body, and how they are dwarfed by the immensity of constructions that surrounds them. Essentially, Patil’s work encapsulates the experience of workers and casteism in his home country, depicting their struggles, routines, and survival in an ever-growing megalopolis.

 

Fahim Rao, The Shadow of Murgha Punishment (Corporal Punishment Series), 2020, fiberglass, 45 x 25 x 33 cm. Image courtesy of Mahmood Ahmed, the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

 

Fahim Rao, The Shadow of Murgha Punishment (Corporal Punishment Series)
For Pakistani sculptor Fahim Rao, art to him is visual poetry through which he manipulates his own emotional predicaments to make sense of universal anxieties. He often takes inspiration from the natural world and the human anatomy, creating works that critically take into consideration rhythm, movement, pattern, light and shadow.

The Shadow of Murgha Punishment takes as its departure point the artist’s own childhood fear of corporal punishment. The human figure with its body bent over, head between the knees and arms clasped behind is in a “stress position”, a common act of humiliation in Pakistan—particularly against youths—that traces back to British colonial times. The shadow that extends from the fibreglass sculpture not only represents the artist’s own painful memories of humiliation, it also hints to a larger lived experience of anxiety triggered by social intolerance.

 

Greg Semu, The Death of Captain Cook and other Colonial Catastrophes, 2019–20, archival digital pigment print on photo rag paper, taxidermy butterfly, 150 x 111 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

 

Greg Semu, The Death of Captain Cook and other Colonial Catastrophes
A self-taught artist of Samoan descent who straddles the fields of photography and visual arts, Greg Semu negotiates and navigates issues of social justice, inequality, the ongoing repercussions of colonial history and enforced atrocities. The shortlisted work, The Death of Captain Cook and other Colonial Catastrophes, is part of Red Coats + Indians, a series of provocative digital prints that engages dialogue around the experience of the colonised and displaced, inspired by his own heritage as well as by indigenous and aboriginal communities around the world. In The Death of Captain Cook, he highlights the feelings of disconnection, suffering and anger nurtured between generations in a satirical game of role playing. Semu imposes himself in this performance-based photograph, playing the role of Captain Cook to re-enact Cook’s discovery of the ‘new world’ and his tragic death.

 

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Illusively beautiful but extremely horrific, 2020, acrylic, ink, screen print on canvas, 146 x 130 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

 

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Illusively beautiful but extremely horrific
Koralegedara Pushpakumara grew up in Sri Lanka in a family of carpenters during a particularly tumultuous period plagued by upheavals and fraught politics in the country. His experience growing up as an eyewitness to war, disruption and death underpins the narrative of his oeuvre. He is shortlisted for his work Illusively beautiful but extremely horrific, a massive black canvas covered in repetitive dabs of abstract white patches that overlaps handwritten dates marking the atrocities that occurred in his home country. The image he conjures is reminiscent of the barbed wires used in captivity and torture that tainted the artist’s early memories. With all the devastation, Pushpakumara attempts to question the ideas of collectivity and equality imposed by our civilisation and the chaotic nature of the human trajectory.

 

Mamali Shafahi, Heirloom Velvet, 2020, flocking, epoxy resin on board, 85 x 115 x 10 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation.

 

Mamali Shafahi, Heirloom Velvet
Iranian artist Mamali Shafahi’s Heirloom Velvet forms part of a larger series that explores the individual identity. Inspired by familial relationships, the way which generations interact, and how these interactions, and life in general is consequently impacted by the emergence of technology, Shafahi’s work stands as a timely reflection of our own interactions with the people around us in these times of social distancing. Furthermore, Heirloom Velvet is a heartfelt tribute to the artist’s own family and heritage created during pandemic-related lockdowns. Inspired by his father, who is also an artist, Shafahi rendered his father’s drawings in three-dimensional reliefs on a wooden board, and coated them in his signature, brightly-coloured flocking. With his art, Shafahi hopes to bring forward conversations around the impact of technology on society, in particular, in a world where the real, augmented, and virtual realities are increasingly intertwined, and identities multiplied and blurred.

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply