Sharp objects, pedicabs, and defaced institutions: Meet the winners of the 2018 Ateneo Art Awards

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The winning exhibit of the Cebu-based artist collective KoloWn, “Low Pressured Area,” is a critique of gallery spaces and art institutions, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The five winners of this year’s Ateneo Art Awards have finally been announced. Three co-winners were given the Fernando Zóbel Prizes for the Visual Art: Ronson Culibrina for his solo exhibition “Talim” (Blanc Gallery), Johanna Helmuth for her solo exhibition “Makeshift” (Blanc Gallery), and KoloWn for the exhibition “Low Pressured Areas” (Cultural Center of the Philippines); and two winners for the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prizes in Art Criticism: Mary Jessel Duque for the essay “Pacita Abad: A Million Times a Woman, an Artist” and Alec Madelene Abarro for the essay “An Organized Chaos: Navigating the Looban.”

The winners of the Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art (third from left) Ronson Culibrina, Johanna Helmut, and KoloWn with (left) Ma. Victoria T. Herrera, the director and chief curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery; Millet Mananquil, Lifestyle editor of the The Philippine Star; and Dr. Maria Luz Vilches, the vice president for the Loyola Schools. Photo by JL JAVIER

The winners of the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prizes for Art Criticism (third from left) Mary Jessel Duque and Alec Madelene Abarro with (from left) Millet Mananquil, the Lifestyle editor of the The Philippine Star; Ada Ledesma-Mabilangan, the president of the Kalaw-Ledesma Foundation; Dr. Maria Luz Vilches, the vice president for the Loyola Schools; and Alvaro Talavera of the Embassy of Spain. Photo by JL JAVIER

Duque was chosen for the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize-The Philippine Star where she will be writing a column for the newspaper’s Arts and Culture section. Abarro won the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize-ArtAsiaPacific Magazine where she will be writing a total of six articles for the bi-monthly international magazine, which is based in Hong Kong.

Both winners will also contribute to the eighth issue of the Perro Berde publication of the Embassy of Spain and Instituto Cervantes.

The visual artist prize winners were also given residency grants from the institutional partners of the Ateneo Art Gallery. Culibrina was granted the residency in Liverpool Hope University - Creative Campus in the United Kingdom; Helmuth was granted the residency in Artesan Gallery + Studio in Singapore; and KoloWn was granted the residency in La Trobe Art University in Bendigo, Australia.

The past winners of the prize, such as Martha Atienza, Maria Taniguchi, and Mark Salvatus, have gone on to exhibit in different countries and win different prizes from international institutions.

For young artists, the opportunity to have international residencies will also be a big push for their practices.

“I remember a few of the artists that have won in the past have acknowledged how the awards has made a difference in their career path after they’ve won the award and received the residency,” says Ma. Victoria T. Herrera, the director and chief curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery. “More doors were opened to them so that by itself is a big advantage, [and a] big contribution of the award to young contemporary artists.”

The director and chief curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ma. Victoria T. Herrera. Photo by JL JAVIER.

The winning works respond to the contemporary condition, and the shortlisted works show self-introspection as a way to examine the role of the artist within the community, especially in these politically charged times.

As Herrera notes: “When we were holding the deliberations of each artist, we noticed that there were similar concerns and themes. It’s very personal but it’s introspective but also looking at their role as a member of the community or society. So that I think is one of the strong themes, but for some, it could be in a very witty way like Robert Langenegger, he is actually making quite a strong statement about God and Dog [...] At the end of that deliberation day, I noticed that the jury said there seemed to be a common theme so it’s either family, the community, concern about the future, but it’s still starting from one’s own position as an individual.”

The title of Ronson Culibrina's exhibit, "Talim," is a reference to his hometown Talim Island in Laguna de Bay. Culibrina shows the contrasts between “ecological soundness and industrial development and livelihood” in the area.

Johana Helmuth's "Makeshift" refers to the measures taken by people to adapt and make do temporarily in a world of scarcity.

KoloWn's "Low Pressured Area" is a critique of gallery spaces and art institutions, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines itself.

Ronson Culibrina's “Talim” at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by JL JAVIER

Johanna Helmuth's “Makeshift” at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by JL JAVIER

The artist collective KoloWn's “Low Pressured Area” at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by JL JAVIER

While the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize is only five years old, Herrera hopes that, alongside the visual arts prize, it will depict the consistent interest of a younger generation in the artistic practice.

“The first two or three years, the participants were quite seasoned writers already,” says Herrera. “They were writing for galleries, and one even had a regular column and it was a good start for the prize. [But] since last year, we received more entries from young writers, fresh graduates. It says something about the interest among the younger generation on [art criticism, especially] now that we have two fresh graduates and still an undergraduate.”

A special citation was also given to Maria Lourdes Garcellano for her work on Vic Delotavo’s Philippine film posters exhibit at the UP Vargas Museum. The publications affiliated with the prize only accept essays written in English but Garcellano’s essay, written purely in Filipino, merited a citation from the jury. The essay will be published in the Linggo ng Wika special of The Philippine Star’s Arts and Culture section.

Special prizes were also announced, two of which are new this year. A new prize from the Embassy of Italy was awarded to Jel Suarez for her solo exhibition “Traces By Which We Remember” (West Gallery). Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino selected the winner among the shortlisted artists and the winning work will be added to the Italian Embassy’s collection of works from young Filipino artists.

Embassy of Italy Purchase Prize winner, Jel Suarez, with Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino. Photo by JL JAVIER

People's Choice winner Mars Bugaoan, with (from left) Debbie Tan of the Ateneo Art Gallery Advisory Council; Jay Ferrer, sales Manager of Times Trading; and Jackville Tan, brand manager of Times Trading. Photo by JL JAVIER

Mars Bugaoan received the People’s Choice award for his exhibit “Becoming” (Artinformal). The prize was chosen from a poll conducted at the beginning of the Ateneo Art Awards exhibit at the Ateneo Art Gallery starting Aug. 10 until Aug. 25. The prize includes ₱15,000 worth of art supplies from Artline, Pebeo, and Derwent.

The announcement of the awards also marked the opening of Ryan Villamael’s “Locus Amoenus,” an intricate “living” exhibit installed at the staircase of the Ateneo Art Gallery. This is Villamael’s “return exhibit” after winning the Ateneo Art Award in 2015.

“Locus Amoenus” was first commissioned for the 2016 Singapore Biennale and occupied the greenhouse of the Singapore Art Museum. It is an installation of an overgrown fauna in paper-cut outs made out of cartographic prints of the Philippines.

Ryan Villamael's “Locus Amoenus” at the 2016 Singapore Biennale. Photo courtesy of the SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM

“Being awarded the residencies three years ago was life-changing for me, in the sense that they allowed me to see a world beyond what I knew and see where my work stood in the greater world,” says Villamael. “Opening ‘Locus Amoenus’ at the same time as this year’s awarding felt like a thanksgiving more than a homecoming for me — it’s been great reflecting on the three years since.”

Herrera also notes that this will mark a new approach on the return exhibits of the AAA-winning artists since the Areté affords them a bigger space to display works.

“We’ll be doing it every two or three years and magkakasabay ‘yung ilang artists in that third floor galleries,” she says.


The 2018 Ateneo Art Awards exhibit runs until Nov. 4 at the Ateneo Art Gallery in Areté.