Double win at UOB painting awards

The United Overseas Bank (UOB) Painting of the Year award, Singapore's richest painting prize, has returned with new categories and produced a surprise winner.

Ms Stefanie Hauger, a former interior designer, won both the newly introduced United Overseas Bank (UOB) South-east Asian Painting of the Year Award, and the UOB Painting of the Year Award (Singapore).

Her 170cm by 170cm acrylic on canvas, Space Odyssey, earned her a total US$35,000 (S$43,800). The South-east Asian painting prize is worth US$10,000 and the Singapore award US$25,000.

The judges this year were Dr Susie Lingham, director of the Singapore Art Museum; international auction house Sotheby's director for China and South-east Asia Mok Kim Chuan; and art veteran Chua Soo Bin, founder of SooBin Art International.

They were impressed with Ms Hauger's contemporary interpretation of a mandala, a concentric circular diagram which helps focus attention during meditation. She shows an abstract representation of a healthy planet as seen from space.

Dr Lingham said the painting stood out for its "striking vitality". She said the work, created by pouring paint on the canvas and manipulating it by moving the canvas in a circular motion, pushes painting boundaries.

Ms Hauger called the two awards "an absolute surprise", and added she was overwhelmed "by this incredible honour given to me in my adopted home".

The 44-year-old German artist, who is a permanent resident, has been living here since the age of 24. She trained in interior architecture in Britain and became a full-time artist in 2011.

Last night, seven other prizes were given out by Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong. The ceremony was held at 72-13 Gallery in Mohamed Sultan Road.

The UOB Painting Of The Year, now in its 32nd year, has new categories this year - one for emerging artists and one for established ones.

An upset win by Esmond Loh, 17, last year in the longest-running painting award here, led to a tweak in rules. His selection had marked the third time in eight years that the award had gone to someone 18 or younger. The awards' new rules are intended to level the field of competition so that artists with similar levels of experience compete against one another.

This year's winner is likely to spark comment as Ms Hauger is not an instantly recognisable name in Singapore's vibrant visual arts circle. The regional winners in the established artist category are painters Suroso Isur (Indonesia), Gan Tee Sheng (Malaysia) and Aphiphol Techamangkhalanon (Thailand). Each of them will receive US$10,000.

The Most Promising Artist of the Year went to Singaporean Lim Guan Zhao, 17, for his work The Transcendence Of Love.

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