Malaysian wins 2021 UOB South-East Asian Painting of The Year

The winning piece was selected from among a record-high number of entries the competition has received in its 40-year history 

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic courtesy of UOB

MALAYSIAN artist Saiful Razman’s artwork has been selected for the winner of 2021 UOB South-East Asian Painting of the Year (POY) and the winning piece was selected from among a record-high number of entries the competition has received in its 40-year history. 

The artwork “Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away” won against pieces from neighbouring countries from Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. 

The minimalist and mono-chromatic artwork is inspired by the quietness and serenity of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It depicts a haven in the shape of a house that is pure and peaceful, while the surrounding dimensional landscape patterns symbolise mountains. 

Saiful used thin-rolled tissue papers and medical gauze on the artwork to create a delicate texture that represents the current pandemic situation. 

“Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away” has managed to captivate the panel of judges which comprises of Institute of South-East Asian Arts and Art Galleries director and Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (South-East Asian Arts) academic advisor Dr Bridget Tracy Tan; Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia, Faculty of Art and Design lecturer Agung Hujatnikajennong; Malaysia’s leading contemporary artist and art advisor Bibi Chew and leading Thai artist Emeritus Prof Parinya Tantisuk. 

Indonesian contemporary artist Eddie Hara also joined the panel lists as the Regional and Singapore guest judge for this special 40th anniversary. 

According to Saiful, the pandemic has brought a great impact on people globally and has caused feelings of isolation which has become more prevalent than ever. 

“Through ‘Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away’, I wanted to express the absence of sound and the sense of serenity experienced during self-isolation through using mixed media and highly contrasting shades of grey. 

“I am honoured to win the 2021 UOB South-East Asian POY award and to represent Malaysia at one of the most recognised art competitions in this region,” he said in a statement. 

On the other hand, winning the 2021 UOB POY (Singapore) Award was 22-year-old and three-time award winner Keane Tan. 

His piece “A Dramatic Cinematic for Our Century” revealed a scene of Singapore’s iconic Merlion Park, with crashing blue waves in a highly-graphic and dramatised style. 

Tan was inspired by Houkai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and the Merlion Park statue to tell the story of a South-East Asian city. 

The artist has also drawn comparison of the flood to a purge of the society’s excesses, with a time for reset that is eminent while its base is formed using image generation and machine learning technologies followed by detailed finishing in oil paint. 

For the “Emerging Artist” category, 20-year-old Brian Koh was the winner for his “Uncertainty of Photovoltaic Cells” which is an abstract representation of a black solar panel in disrepair. 

It symbolises mankind’s renewed efforts on and commitment towards driving sustainability, while reflecting the uncertainty that lies ahead. 

The misalignment of shapes and lines represents 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 country winners will be rewarded with an opportunity to attend a one-month residency programme at either the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan or the UOB Art Gallery in Shanghai, China. 

These programmes enable artists to immerse themselves in the art culture of the host country and to learn about various approaches to art creation. 

The 2021 UOB POY Virtual Awards Ceremony was broadcasted yesterday on UOB’s YouTube platform while the winning paintings from across the region will be exhibited at the UOB Art Gallery both physically at the UOB Art Gallery, UOB Plaza 1 in Singapore from Nov 27, 2021, till Feb 28, 2022, as well as virtually on