WINNING ARTWORK EXPLORES THE NOTION OF VALUE


Chong Kim Chiew’s Malaya and British Borneo One Dollar 1953 (We look at the past, we look at the present) won the UOB Painting of the Year award in the established artist category.

FOR centuries, art has been a powerful medium connecting people, igniting conversations and telling stories that transcend generations.

For UOB Malaysia, the belief in the transformative power of art is the foundation of their UOB Painting of the Year (POY) competition, established in Singapore in 1982 – making it the longest-running in Singapore, and one of the most prestigious in South-East Asia.

As a leading patron of the arts, UOB’s commitment to the South-East Asian art scene is mirrored in their support for the region’s talented artists through this annual competition, introduced to Malaysia in 2011.

The 2023 UOB POY awards in Malaysia, which also marks its 13th year running, was held in Sentul Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 21, and once again showcased the depth of artistic talent in the region.

This year, UOB’s POY Malaysia – divided into the established and emerging artists categories – received a record-breaking number of submissions.

“It is gratifying to see that the local art community view UOB POY as an established platform to elevate their profile regionally,” says UOB Malaysia chief executive officer Ng Wei Wei.

“We are excited to continue unleashing the power of art and nurturing the country’s next generation of great artistic talents through this flagship competition,” she adds.

UOB Malaysia chief executive officer Ng Wei Wei says the UOB POY competition has seen winners exploring myriad topics ranging from the country’s history to personal life experiences.UOB Malaysia chief executive officer Ng Wei Wei says the UOB POY competition has seen winners exploring myriad topics ranging from the country’s history to personal life experiences.

Value of art

In the established artist category, the top award went to Chong Kim Chiew for his thought-provoking artwork titled Malaya and British Borneo One Dollar 1953 (We look at the past, we look at the present).

This piece is a combination of history, nostalgia, and artistic vision that features two identical banknotes from the British Malaya era – a currency that circulated across Malaya, Brunei, North Borneo, the Riau archipelago, Sarawak and Singapore from 1953 to 1967.

Chong’s artwork invites viewers to contemplate the past and the present, exploring how history shapes our understanding of the world.

The juxtaposition of the two banknotes – created using a mix of acrylic, foil paper, lime plaster, and paint on canvas – serves as a lens to view history from a contemporary perspective.

For Chong, the inspiration for his piece came from a place of intrigue with history and how it shapes the future.

UOB Painting of the Year award winner Chong Kim Chiew received RM100,000 cash, and will represent Malaysia at the 2023 UOB South-East Asian POY award in Singapore on Nov 8.UOB Painting of the Year award winner Chong Kim Chiew received RM100,000 cash, and will represent Malaysia at the 2023 UOB South-East Asian POY award in Singapore on Nov 8.

As an artist, he explains, he delves deeper into the complex relationship between art and money and the fluctuating value of artists and their artworks over time.

“Just like an old bank note that appreciates in value over the years – who determines the value of art, and would an artist’s work appreciate in value long after they are gone? To me, this playfully challenges an artist’s pursuit of commercial value in the world of art,” he says.

As the winner of the 2023 UOB POY Malaysia award, Chong took home RM100,000 cash, and will represent Malaysia at the coveted 2023 UOB South-East Asian POY award, set to take place in Singapore on Nov 8.

The country winners from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam will vie for the ultimate prize of SG$13,000 and a chance to compete for a one-month residency programme at the renowned Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan.

Powerful narratives

In the emerging artist category, multi-disciplinary artist Mairul Nisa Malek bagged the Most Promising Artist of the Year award.

Her piece, Malek and Mariana, offers a glimpse into her childhood when she accompanied her father – an educator – on his journeys to remote regions in Sarawak.

Her artwork – composed using cement, film wire mesh, washed cyanotype placed in a wooden box frame – captures the essence of her diaspora experience.

In the emerging artist category, Mairul Nisa Malek was adjudged the Most Promising Artist of the Year, with her piece titled Malek and Mariana.In the emerging artist category, Mairul Nisa Malek was adjudged the Most Promising Artist of the Year, with her piece titled Malek and Mariana.

The washed cyanotype on cement evokes the imperfect beauty of the past, while inverted film serves as a reflection of her memories, creating a powerful visual narrative.

Bibi Chew, chief judge of the 13th UOB POY (Malaysia) competition, emphasises the importance of storytelling through art.

“It is truly inspiring to see a growing number of people uncovering their passion for art through UOB POY. My belief is that art is meant to be shared, and I have been deeply moved by the stories told by each artist through their art pieces,” says Chew.

Future of art

That said, UOB’s dedication to the arts goes beyond organising the annual competition.

The bank recently launched the Jom Transform: Arts Digital Accelerator programme in collaboration with the National Art Gallery, aimed at building sustainable careers for artists.

This initiative aims to equip UOB POY and National Art Gallery’s Young Art Entrepreneurs participants with digital skills, tools, and business acumen necessary to thrive in the contemporary art world.

The two-day programme features talks, panel discussions, and sharing sessions with industry experts to help artists enhance their digital presence and competitiveness.

The winning artworks from the 13th UOB Painting of the Year (Malaysia) competition will be on display at Level 3, GMBB Kuala Lumpur, from Sept 23 to Oct 6 – offering the public an opportunity to engage with the stories and creative expressions of Malaysia’s talented artists.

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