The rains may have been raging and floods may have affected most parts of the metro last week, but that didn’t stop art patrons and artists alike from convening at the much-awaited Ateneo Art Awards. If anything, the well-attended affair only showed the yearly awards’ important place in the art community.
The art award was first established in 2004 in honor of its founding benefactor Fernando Zobel de Ayala (1924-1984) whose legacy included his relentless support for young Filipino visual artists. The Ateneo Art Awards are given to Filipino visual artists below the age of 36, for their outstanding works in exhitions mounted between 2 May of the previous year and 1 May of the current year.
Three âco-equalâ winners were named on Thursday (August 9) at the Shangri-La Plaza Grand Atrium. Out of 12 shortlisted candidates for the awards, themed as âSneak Peak,â Riel Hilario, Maria Taniguchi, and Martha Atienza were bestowed with the top prize. Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ presented the winners with unique “green” trophies with young plants.
Hilario was lauded for Perro Amoroso / It was a Paradisiacal State: The Body was Allowed to be a Body; Taniguchi for Untitled (Celestial Motors); and Martha Atienza for Gilubong ang Akon Pusod sa Dagat (My Navel is Buried in the Sea).
Winners of the Ateneo Art Awards are invited to apply to studio residencies funded by the Ateneo Art Gallery and its partner institutions, including Artesan Gallery in Singapore; La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre in Bendigo, Australia; and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Those granted studio residencies were also announced during the awarding ceremonies, with Atienza getting accepted into all three of the aforementioned studios. British Ambassador Stephen Lillie and Australian Deputy Head of Mission Andrew Byrne were there with Villarin to present the awards from the studios in their respective countries.
âI feel elated. I feel grateful,â said Riel Hilario, who was the only artist among the three present to accept his award. He received the accolade just in time, as he turns 36 next month. The Ateneo Art Awards are given only to artists below that age.
âMy works are basically woodcarvings because I studied santo-making when I was a teenager. Itâs our family tradition,â explained the artist who hails from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. âIâm trying to find a way to create contemporary presentation for a traditional art form and I feel that is my responsibility because I donât see a lot of people who do carvings.â
What he calls âa painful processâ due to the wounds he receives during the art process is nevertheless a gratifying one.
âMy subject matter comes from dreams. I’ve been keeping dream journals since I was 15. I was able to unearth some interesting images that both reveal [a lot] about [me] and about image-making.â
He has an ongoing show, Event Horizon, at the Drawing Room in Makati, ending August 18. Calling it his “last local exhibit,” Hilario explains, âItâs called as such because itâs my last work before I leave. Iâll be away for a year.â He will doing his residency in Paris, âstudying carvings in cathedrals in France.â After his European stint, he’ll be fulfilling his residency in New York, then Malaysia.
âContemporary art is leaning towards conceptual art, process-based art. My stand has always been, don’t forget that artists have rootedness. May pinanggagalingan tayo (We all have history). In my case, it was my childhoodâthe tradition of woodcarving [in] Vigan, Ilocos Sur.â He advises his fellow contemporary artists to âfind rootedness in their work, not to stray far in the universe and find the meaning in their works in the present times.â
âDiverse,â is how judge Dr. Cecilia S. De La Paz, chair of the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, describes this yearâs candidates.
âYou have strong contenders who represent multimedia. And then you have representations of artwork that use or appropriate local resources. Then you have artists that explore post-modern ideas. I think these three capture the nominees this year.â
Her work has been especially challenging because the artists came from different backgrounds. âThe job of a juror is to determine what would be the role of contemporary art at this day and age and the kind of public it could address in the Philippines. Perhaps this yearâs judgment is appropriate because of certain issues that need to be addressed about what contemporary art is.â
Aside from De La Paz, the jury was composed of Ramon E.S. Lerma, director and curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery; Ahmad Mashadi, head of the National University of Singapore Museum; Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ, Fine Arts associate professor at the Ateneo; Leo Abaya, visual artist and Fine Arts associate professor at UP Diliman; Annie Cabigting, visual artist and 2005 Ateneo Art Awards winner; and Dindin Araneta, former executive director of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines.
This batch of winners and shortlisted artists are unique from those of the past awards, according to the assistant curator of Ateneo Art Gallery, Joel de Leon. âThere are winners who are consistent like Kawayan de Guia, Maria Taniguchi, [and] MM Yu because theyâre [part of] the cream of the crop. Thatâs why theyâre always nominated. There are different judges each year, and yet [these artistsâ] names still appear every year. There must be something good in their works.â
The short-listed artists in this year’s art awards are: Zean Cabangis for Shade My Eyes and I Can See You; Vermont Coronel for Spirit of a Place; Kawayan de Guia for A Lot of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing; Patricia Eustaquio for Cloud Country; Dina Gadia for Regal Discomforts; Goldie Poblador for The Ghost in the Machine; Mervy Pueblo for Project: Stone Mediation; Mark Valenzuela for Zugzwang; and MM Yu for Inventory.
Art and the Filipino
âI think that art is a privileged channel of being Filipino. We have talent [here],â said Fr. Villarin in an interview with InterAksyon. âThis is an opportunity to recognize upcoming talent. Iâm glad that theyâre recognizing even the younger artists. The Ateneo will do this (the awards) I think for as long as we are here and weâd like to encourage anything that brings appreciation of all things beautiful and Filipino. Thatâs part of our mission and identity. I think also it helps foster a stronger sense of being Filipino.â
When asked if he had a favorite exhibit among the 12, he said, ââDi ko pa natapos lahat eh. Pero gusto kong tignan at balikan si Martha Atienza. Napakyaw niya âyung awards eh, grandslam. (I havenât been able to look at them all, but Iâd like to take another look at Martha Atienzaâs exhibit. She got all the awards. It was a grandslam.)â
The works of the artistsâ will be on view at the Ateneo Art Gallery of the Ateneo de Manila University beginning August 22 through September 22.