Young artist questions race and identity in winning art work

Young artist questions race and identity in winning art work

SINGAPORE - A study on race and identity led James John Dycoco to win the Prudential Singapore Young Artist Award with his series of photos featuring back doors at the first-ever Prudential Eye Awards in Singapore.

Dycoco is originally from the Philippines and is currently a final-year student at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) pursuing a Diploma in Fine Arts. Using his experiences as a foreign student and his observations of how people in Singapore interacted, he created his award-winning photo series entitled 2850,58.

The 21-year-old artist lined up photos of back doors and invited his audience to think and analyse, before deciding what race would represent the featured door. He wanted to know how people associated the characteristics of the doors with the identity of a particular race.

In 2850,58, the doors were part of shophouses located along Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. These shop houses have been part of Singapore's shipping trade in the early 1860s, said Dycoco, but they have been converted for entertainment and tourism.

The NAFA student was intrigued by the appearance and conditions of the doors, and the differences between the front and the back doors. He noticed that the main shop fronts were kept clean and appealing, while the latter was left to age and deteriorate.

Dycoco admitted that for years, he has struggled with personal identity and confidence in himself and his work. After winning the award and the US$10,000 (S$12,750) prize money, he said it gave him the right to recognise himself as an artist and also funds for future projects.

2014 marks the inauguration of the Prudential Arts Awards which was founded by art patron David Ciclitira and his wife, Serenella. Works were selected for five categories - painting, photography, sculpture, installation and digital/video art.

Amanda Lim, a NAFA student and contestant at the awards, said being part of the competition lets local artists step up to an international platform.

Calling it a booster, Eugene Kohyoquin, an arts student, said having the awards is a catalyst to the arts and culture scene in Singapore. It also contributes to the spread of art from Singapore to the rest of the world.

Prudential Eye Awards exhibition is on from now till February 5 from 10am to 10pm daily at the Crescent Room, Level 2, Suntec City Mall.

Admission is free to the public.

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