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Artwork expressing serenity in isolation wins 2021 UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year

Goola Warden
Goola Warden • 4 min read
Artwork expressing serenity in isolation wins 2021 UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year
UOB announces winners for its 2021 UOB Painting of the Year (POY) awards.
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Malaysian artist Saiful Razman has won the 2021 UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year (POY) award for his artwork titled Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away in Silence. Razman’s artwork was chosen from among the country winners of the 2021 UOB POY competitions held in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. His winning piece was selected from among a record high number of entries the competition has received in its 40-year history.

Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away in Silence was inspired by the quietness and serenity of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the centre of the minimalistic and monochromatic artwork features a haven in the shape of a house that is pure and peaceful, while the surrounding dimensional landscape patterns symbolise mountains. The creative use of thin-rolled tissue paper and medical gauze on the artwork creates the delicate texture that reflects the current pandemic situation, captivating the panel of judges from the four Southeast Asian countries.

Keane Tan wins the 2021 UOB Painting of the Year (Singapore) Award in the Established Artist Category. Tan, 22, was presented the 2021 UOB POY (Singapore) award for his painting titled A Dramatic Cinematic for Our Century. The three-time award recipient of the competition illustrated a scene of Singapore’s iconic Merlion Park, with crashing blue waves in a highly-graphic and dramatised style.

Brian Ko, 20, won the 2021 UOB Most Promising Artist of the Year Award (Singapore) in the Emerging Artist Category for his painting titled Uncertainty of Photovoltaic Cells. His abstract representation of a black solar panel in disrepair symbolises mankind’s renewed efforts on and commitment towards driving sustainability, while reflecting the uncertainty that lies ahead. The misalignment of the shapes and lines embodies human fallibility in mankind’s efforts to create a sustainable future where there is no simple or perfect solution to the existential threat of climate change.

The winning paintings from across the region (see Appendix) will be exhibited at the UOB Art Gallery, UOB Plaza 1 in Singapore from 27 November 2021 to 28 February 2022 as well as virtually on

As part of this year’s anniversary programme, all country winners will attend a one-month residency programme at either the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan or the UOB Art Gallery in Shanghai, China. Through the programme, these artists will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the art culture of the host country and to learn about various approaches to art creation.

See also: How Dennis Ouyang is curating culture for a more approachable art world

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the UOB POY, the Bank’s flagship regional visual arts programme. The UOB POY is the longest-running art competition in Singapore and has helped more than 1,000 artists across the region share their works on a larger stage. Many have gone on to define Southeast Asian art including Goh Beng Kwan, the late Anthony Poon and Chua Ek Kay, who were also recipients of the Singapore Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s most distinguished art award. The country winner of the 2010 UOB POY (Thailand), Pannaphan Yodmanee, has also gone on to win the distinguished Benesse Prize, the official award of the Singapore Biennale, in 2016.

Wee Ee Cheong, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, UOB, said that the vital role of art in connecting communities has shone through from the very first year of the competition.

“We appreciate the special role artists play in society as they help to challenge, to inspire and to connect us all. Over the last four decades, the UOB Painting of the Year competition has helped to uncover and nurture our region’s artists, making their artworks accessible to a wider audience. This year we have seen a record number of entries from across the region, each entry testament to the imagination and ingenuity of Southeast Asian artists to relate to their audiences. Our artists have once again pushed the boundaries of creativity by capturing the fortitude, compassion and resilience of people as they look beyond immediate concerns and find rays of hope for a better future.”

See also: Journeys across time

Next year, UOB will also host a special commemorative exhibition to feature past winning artworks from UOB Southeast Asian POY winners and UOB POY (Singapore) winners since 1982. The exhibition will be open to the public and attendees will experience how Southeast Asian art has changed over the years and at the hands of the competition’s art luminaries.

Photo from UOB with President Halimah Yacob at the 2021 UOB POY Award Ceremony, alongside winners

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