Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Two months after making it to the shortlist, artists Martha Atienza, Rocky Cajigan, and Nathalie Dagmang received the Fernando Zobel Prizes for Visual Art in this year’s Ateneo Art Awards, which culminated with a ceremony held at the Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas, Mandaluyong on September 15. Writers Pristine de Leon and Dominic Zinampan also received the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism.
Out of 12 nominees, the awards recognized Atienza for her installation “Study in Reality No. 3” (Silverlens Galleries), Cajigan for “Museumified” (Blanc Gallery), and Dagmang for “Dito sa may Ilog ng Tumana: A Sensory Investigation on the Contradictory Relationship of Barangay Tumana with the Marikina River,” which was her thesis under the UP College of Fine Arts. Atienza was granted an artist’s residency by the La Trobe University and Visual Arts Centre in Bendigo, Australia, and Dagmang received the same opportunity from the Artesan Gallery in Singapore and the Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, UK.
The works of the three recipients of the prestigious award push the boundaries of the idea of art in this particular age, both in form and function. The selected winners, through their work, simultaneously ask and answer questions about the concept of contemporary art and how it relates to culture at large.
Atienza’s “Study in Reality No. 3,” a kinetic sculpture that is acutely aware of its immediate environment, took audio and visual elements from her experience peeping through a hole in a garden shed with her mother while Typhoon Hagupit ravaged Bantayan Island. Her personal experience and the experience of an entire community are fashioned into an image that somehow heightens the reality of the event. Dagmang’s work is cut from the same cloth; “Dito sa may Ilog ng Tumana” includes videos and found objects as it investigates the perennial threat of the flooding of the Marikina River and the disastrous effects on the marginalized communities that surround it. Both works incorporate ethnographic practices with artistic practices, migrating between different disciplines to produce images that inhabit the real just as the real inhabits the image.
Cajigan’s “Museumified” is a series of assemblages navigating a number of differing identities condensed upon a single space. The notion of identity is rendered unstable and chaotic; seemingly disjoint objects are brought together in tiny museums of the self and all its contradictions. “Museumified” seems to be working to unfix the notion of a solid, static identity, to represent it as multiple, and fluid — a patchwork of different parts.
These three works all appear to acknowledge the power of the image and its relationship to reality; instead of distrusting the image, it is used to communicate realities that lie beyond the conventional.
A similar thread runs through the writings of the winners of the Purita-Kalaw Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism. De Leon was recognized for her essay “Owning the Image: Exploring Lopez Museum’s political cartoons and the pleasures of resistance,” which also earned her a bimonthly column for the Philippine Star. Zinampan’s “Chambers of Reflection: A Critique on Mark Justiniani’s Reverb” bagged him the award as well as a writing opportunity for ArtAsiaPacific.
Both essays are studies in perception, how one is confronted by numerous layers of differing viewpoints, images manipulated by forces beyond one’s control, and a wildly disorienting present. The insights contained within them serve as guidance through the intersecting labyrinths of art and life, filled with wit and acuity to cut through the chaos.