PROMISING homegrown artists Sabihis Mohd Pandi, 25, Ong Xiang Ru, 27, Shafiq Nordin, 26, Cheong Tuck Wai, 34, and Hilal Mazlan, 26, now look to have their careers accelerated.
They have each picked up honours in the Malaysian Emerging Artist Award 2013 (MEA award), which recently concluded its third edition with a prizegiving ceremony at the White Box, MAP, Publika in Kuala Lumpur.
The biennial competition, organised by local art galleries Galeri Chandan and HOM Art Trans, ran from last November to early January. This independent initiative aims to recognise talents who are relatively unknown (artists below the age of 35). Also, their artworks must have been produced between 2012 and 2013, and never exhibited locally before.
“There are many competitions promoting the arts in Malaysia. But what makes the MEA award different is the artworks are judged by the opinion of the industry,” said Mohammad Nazli Abdul Aziz, managing director of Galeri Chandan.
“What better way when the stakeholders of the industry (art professionals, curators, collectors, academicians) are given the opportunity to honour the talents and evaluate the maturity of new entrants into the industry?” he added.
An independent group of (anonymous) judges were tasked to look through the entries, make a shortlist and pick the top five artists for MEA 2013. For the competition, 41 finalists were shortlisted out of a total of 178 artworks submitted. Back in 2009, 36 finalists were chosen, while in 2011, 75 entries were received and 39 finalists shortlisted.
The MEA 2013 winners each received a cash prize, vouchers for art materials, a 10-day travel grant to a city in South-East Asia and a showcase for all five winners (this August) and a solo exhibition in 2015, which will give them crucial exposure in the Malaysian contemporary art scene.
“These five winners now have a platform to work creatively, to gain knowledge and experience by travelling, to exhibit a collective showcase and this time around, a solo show. It’s a series of programmes that lay the foundation for professional career development in the visual arts,” said Nazli.
The Kuantan-born Cheong, who submitted a triptych for the competition, centres his emotive work on the melancholy of memory and distant longing.
“My creativity is all about memory, in which people, scenes and objects are described and defined. I create images and effects of deserted, abandoned or discarded things through various mixed materials,” said Cheong.
Hilal, from Kuala Kangsar, revealed that he took two years to create his mechanical Flying Fleet series.
“I don’t have an engineering background. This series came purely from my own artistic impressions with a fair amount of improvisation,” said Hilal.
Expectations to deliver will be high for each MEA 2013 winner, especially since they are now part of an alumni that includes 2009 winners like Gan Chin Lee, Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali, Mohd Bakit Baharom, Samsudin Wahab and Poodien (Shaifuddin Mamat). For MEA 2011, Chong Ai Lei, Siund Tan, Sun Kang Jye, Ng Swee Keat and Syahbandi picked up the top prizes.