Jakarta. Indonesian artist Gede Mahendra Yasa won the People's Choice Award from Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation's Signature Art Prize 2018 held at the Singapore Art Museum on Thursday (29/06) for his painting "After Paradise Lost #1," winning $10,000 in prize money, according to a press statement received by The Jakarta Globe.
Mahendra’s paiting, created in 2014, received the highest number of public votes at the exhibition, which was opened in May 25. The People’s Choice Award was made available to encourage critical thinking and dialogue about contemporary art in the public sphere.
Indonesian curator Agung Hujatnikajennong, who nominated Mahendra’s work, said the winning painting is part of a series the artist started in 2012 by appropriating a Balinese painting style called "Batuan" to speak out about the position of Balinese artists in the Java-dominated development of modern Indonesian art.
The Batuan style was developed by Balinese artists in the late 1930s and is characterized by dense, layered composition that fills up the whole canvas with figures, spaces and action scenes.
"Batuan-style paintings, like the Bali depicted in tourist postcards, helped form the image of Bali as a "paradise island," when in fact it's a site of contestation between local and global cultures brought there in spades by tourism," Agung said.
Mahendra, a native Balinese, paints important historical figures side-by-side with ordinary people on his canvas, and blurs the divide between them.
His paintings are replete with temples, dancers, tourists, surfers and women in traditional costumes – images commonly associated with Bali – juxtaposed with scenes from famous paintings, including Raden Saleh’s "The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro" and "A Flood in Java," Nicolaas Pieneman’s "The Submission of Prince Diponegoro to General De Kock" and Théodore Géricault’s "The Raft of the Medusa."
The Signature Art Prize is a triennial competition held by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation since 2008. It's open to outstanding contemporary art produced over the previous three years across Asia Pacific. This fourth edition marked the first time it included works from Central Asia.
A total of 113 artworks from 46 countries and territories were nominated by 38 independent curators for this year’s competition.
"The Signature Art Prize highlights the intertwining histories and realities across Asia Pacific and Central Asia," SAM chairman Edmund Cheng said.
The competition's Grand Prize went to Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen's "Tropical Siesta," a two-channel video displayed alongside oil paintings rendered on x-ray films.
Two artists won the Juror’s Choice prizes: Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao with "A Short Biography of the Banished Book Vol I: Written in the Margins (2014-2016)" and Thai artist Thasnai Sethaseree with "Untitled (Hua Lamphong)."
"Collectively, the works of these finalists address notions of identity and how our histories influence our current points of view – important issues at the moment in contemporary Asia," said one of the judges, National Gallery of Australia director Gerard Vaughan.
The winning artworks and all of the finalists' pieces will be on view until Sept. 2 at the National Museum of Singapore. A number of talks on contemporary Asian art are also scheduled at SAM and the National Museum of Singapore.