While many dwelled on the pervasive silence of isolation during lockdown, Malaysian artist Saiful Razman homed in on the serenity he experienced resulting from the absence of sound. His artwork — Walk in Silence, Don’t Walk Away in Silence — was chosen as the 2021 UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the year, beating country winners of the UOB Painting of the Year from Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
Using tissue paper and gauze, Saiful built what looks like a combination of a roof, shelter and tunnel at the centre of his mixed media on canvas submission. Surrounding the structure is an expansive landscape of mountains in contrasting shades of grey. “[It] represents a peaceful space one can walk into or out [of],” the artist says in a United Overseas Bank video.
“I like the unexpectedness of putting seemingly ordinary objects like tissue paper in an art gallery. From a flat surface, you can manipulate it. Our identity can be moulded out of a spectrum of emotions.”
The Universiti Teknologi Mara graduate, who sees art as a transcript of his life, thoughts and emotions, will get US$10,000 for the regional award and attend a month-long residency programme at either Japan’s Fukuoka Asian Art Museum or the UOB Art Gallery in Shanghai. He had received RM100,000 as the Malaysian winner for the competition, themed ‘Of Imagination and Ingenuity’.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this annual art event, the three other country winners will also get to be part of the residency programme. They are Singapore’s Keane Tan, whose crashing waves in A Dramatic Cinematic for Our Century — inspired by Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Singapore’s Merlion — tell of the need to purge society’s excesses; Thailand’s Vachira Kornthong captures the colours, lights and textures of nature, which bring inexplicable peace in Land of Happiness; and Meliantha Muliawan of Indonesia. To create Even after Death, the Departed Lives Life, Meliantha, whose forebears braved the waves to reach Indonesia, examined broken shards of pottery to piece together fragments of the past and find her place in the globalised world.
Winning works from across the region are on show at UOB Art Gallery in UOB Plaza 1, Singapore, until Feb 28 next year as well as virtually here.
Entries for the UOB Painting of the Year in every country are judged under two categories: Established Artist and Emerging Artist. Malaysia’s gold, silver and bronze award winners, respectively, in the first category are: Lee Mok Yee for Impermanence; Mohd Azrul Azrai Mohamad Mohyi for Ragaman (Various Behaviour); and Fadilah Karim for Blue Tape. Lau Pik Yoke’s 500 Days Looking Through the Window was highly recommended.
Jaclyn Teh Ya Zi was named Most Promising Artist of the Year in the Emerging Artist category for Hi, “a visual representation of someone with social anxiety attempting to hide from everyday social interaction”. The other winners are Nik Ashri Nik Harun (gold; A Playlist for My Daughter); Sack Tin Lim (silver; Self Portrait — All Grown Up); and Raden Hisbullah Radin Abu Bakar (bronze; Contiguous Will Continue).
This article first appeared on Dec 13, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.