Gameboards, Murals, and Video Games: The Winning Pieces at This Year's Ateneo Art Awards
At the opening remarks of the 16th Ateneo Art Awards, Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J. described art as “an experience of extracts, one wherein we are taken out of where we are, to be transported and to be brought to an experience of transcendence.” Every work of art has this potential, as it brings us closer to humanity. The winners of the awards indeed possessed this potential, driving us closer to our experiences through various art forms. Held at the Areté Arts building at the Ateneo de Manila University on August 18, 2019, the Ateneo Art Awards honored artists in two categories: The Fernando Zobel Prize for Visual Arts and the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize in Art Criticism.
The Fernando Zobel Prize for Visual Arts honors the founding benefactor of the Ateneo Art Gallery while aiming to enrich the contemporary art scene in the country. Twelve shortlisted artists were chosen from among 84 entries by seven jurors. Nominees for the Zobel Prize must be 36 years old and below to qualify for the three grants awarded to the winners.
For 2019, the Ateneo Art Awardees were Archie Oclos, Costantino Zicarelli, and Keb Cerda.
Archie Oclos garnered the Artesan Gallery + Studio artist residency grant in Singapore for his timely piece on the war on drugs, Lupang Hinirang. It struck the hearts of many when it was first exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In addition to the grant, Oclos was selected as the top artist in the People’s Choice Poll.
Oclos’ works were impossible to overlook for their size alone. His concept was originally exhibited as part of the Thirteen Artist Awards at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. A selection of his huge 20 by 70-foot murals was displayed at the outdoor entrance of the Areté, while the rest were situated on the 2nd floor of the building. The entryway murals portray a deceased figure lying on the ground with a sheet of cloth placed on top of the body. The 20,000 lines drawn across the mural are representative of the countless killings throughout the Philippines’ oppressive drug war. His second set depicts sacks of rice with figures of activists, students and farmers covered in oil. The most striking image, however, is a bullet hitting a child, a direct reference to the many young children lost through these extrajudicial killings. This thought-provoking depiction of the Philippine drug war encourages viewers to reflect on the reality of the current administration policy. Oclos’ works are often political and complex, as the street artist aims to tell stimulating stories focused on the marginalized population of the Philippines.
The Ateneo Art Gallery’s partnership with the Embassy of Italy in 2018 continued this year, with Doctor Karayom as its recipient for the 2019 AAA-Embassy of Italy Purchase Prize. Karayom’s work will be part of the Embassy of Italy’s growing contemporary art collection, an effort spearheaded by Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino. Doktor Karayom’s installation featured a colorful, yet enigmatic gameboard, Isla Inip (an anagram of the word Pilipinas), which was previously featured in the 2018 Thirteen Artist Awards at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The gameboard is inspired by the artist’s homeland, the Philippines, seen through the eye of a karayom, or needle. Viewers will be particularly intrigued by Karayom’s unique installation, as he chooses to involve the viewers through his tongue-in-cheek gameboard. The artist touches on the realities of everyday life in the Philippines and Filipinos’ resourcefulness in facing these issues. At the center of the board lies a 13-foot figure of our national hero, Jose Rizal, who is meant to represent Filipinos who desire fulfillment amid one’s everyday trials and tribulations. The gameboard presents simple instructions that give viewers a look into Filipinos and their innovative ways of coping with hardship. Some examples are: “huminga ng malalim, at kumanta ng paboritong kanta” (take a deep breath and sing your favorite song) or “magbigay ng limang piso sa kalaban (give five pesos to your opponent). In order to win, players must be imaginative and quick on their feet.
Keb Cerda bagged the Liverpool Hope University artist residency grant in Liverpool. for his fascinating video game. Cerda’s piece entitled Super Nardo: False Profits was first featured at a solo exhibition, "Untitled," earlier this year in San Francisco. Integrating new media and augmented reality with traditional art forms, Cerda presents his viewers with a participative adventure board game with a hand-painted battlefield. Intended as a parody of the well-known Super Mario games by Nintendo, the game’s objective is based on humans’ constant desire for gold. The player delves into the financial industry, journeys through eerie pathways, and aims to collect gold coins throughout the game. Referencing its title False Profits, the game explores the fond illusion of improving the lives of those around them through the world of financial markets. Young viewers will especially enjoy this exhibit, as they are made to access the game through an application downloadable via smartphone on the App Store or Google Play.
Costantino Zicarelli obtained the La Trobe University artist residency grant in Bendigo, Australia for his one-of-a-kind exhibit at Artinformal in Makati. Years of Dust Will Build A Mountain was first viewable to the public as a solo exhibition by the artist. A combination of installation, sculpture, drawing, and painting, Zicarelli utilizes patterns in each medium as he probes into the question of the unknown through his artwork. Already a past winner of an Ateneo Art Award, Zicarelli makes use of traditional techniques such as drawing and painting, while also utilizing new mediums including etched glass, graphite powder, and wood assemblages. The artist focuses on what he calls “the moment before the inevitable, where belief hangs suspended in the air together with a hazy acceptance.” Through his exhibit, viewers are able to take a peek into Zicarelli’s mind, as he experiments with various, materials and processes.
The Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize in Art Criticism honors excellence in writing, research analysis and knowledge of the arts. Two winners were chosen by the Philippine Star and the ArtAsiaPacific Magazine, among four shortlisted writers. Short-listed writers were: John Alexis Balaguer for his analysis "Everywhere is Here: The Museum as Heterotopia in Mark Lewis Higgins’ Gold in Our Veins," Janina Gwen Bautista for her essay, "Nasaan ka na, Mara-bini? Drawing Out Women and Comics Out of the Periphery," Jeckree Mission for his piece "A Confrontation with Gendered Bodies in Southeast Asia" and Mariah Reodica for her work "Saltwater Trajectories: Bisan Tubig Di Magbalon, and Viva Excon as Cartographer."
The Philippine Star chose Mariah Reodica as its winner, and she will be writing two articles a month for the newspaper starting January 2020. Balaguer bagged the Art Asia Pacific Magazine Award and will be writing a total of six articles in a year for the bi-monthly publication. In addition, both Balaguer and Reodica will contribute material for the ninth edition of Perro Berde, an annual publication of the Embassy of Spain and Instituto Cervantes.
The Ateneo Art Awards was celebrated alongside the opening of a new exhibition, "Yellow Ambiguities." Curated by Jason Dy, SJ and Carlomar Daoana (2014 winner of the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize in Art Criticism. The exhibit tackles the complexity of the color yellow in the Philippine setting, touching on the transcendence in its array of hues and its unexpected role in Philippine politics.
See works by the finalists below:
With the celebration of these two significant awards and the parallel exhibition at the Areté, it is refreshing to see artists’ utilizing various forms of media and art to express their views, emotions and experiences visually and in written form—in an effort to bring viewers closer to human experiences.
The Ateneo Art Awards Exhibit will run until October 27, 2019 at the Ateneo Art Gallery. The parallel exhibition Yellow Ambiguities runs until January 5, 2020 at the Areté building at the Ateneo de Manila University.