Tips from past winners on how to ace an art competition
Artists (from left) Goh Beng Kwan, Jamie Teo and Pannaphan Yodmanee are past winners of the United Overseas Bank Painting of the Year award. (Photos: United Overseas Bank, Jamie Teo and Pannaphan Yodmanee)

Tips from past winners on how to ace an art competition

Age is no barrier when it comes to winning the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Painting of the Year competition. The well-known regional art award, which is back for its 40th edition, has crowned winners as young as 16. The contest is open to citizens and permanent residents in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, and welcomes artists of all levels of experience, from emerging talent to established painters.

The contest is open for submission of paintings until 31 July. This year’s UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year winner, to be announced in November, will receive a cash prize of US$35,000, and a chance to attend a residency programme at either Shanghai, China or Fukuoka, Japan.

Past winners of the contest include artist Goh Beng Kwan, 84, the overall Singapore winner in 1982, and Singaporean Jamie Teo, 25, winner for the emerging artist category in 2018. Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee, 32, was a winner of the UOB Painting of the Year (Thailand) award in 2010.

Read on as the three former winners share tips on how to ace the art competition, and how their lives changed after winning the award.

What tips do you have for winning the art competition?

Goh: Never give up, no matter what others say about your work or how financially difficult it may be. If you do not win the competition this year, look at your art practice, seek to understand why you failed and get advice from good artists and teachers. Improve on your techniques, look for new inspiration and try again the following year. Being an artist is not about winning a competition, it is about your personal development and doing something that you are passionate about.

Pannaphan: Seize every opportunity along the way and prove yourself. Get to know a lot of people and show your artworks often through various channels. Participating in UOB Painting of the Year is a step to success.

Teo: The most important thing is to forget that this is a competition. Always remember to be true to yourself and your practice!

What did you take away from the experience of the competition?

Goh: Because I won the award, I was invited to participate in many local and overseas exhibitions, and that gave me the opportunity to develop further as an artist, as well as interact and learn from other Southeast Asian artists.

Pannaphan: My biggest takeaway was the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time in my life for the regional competition in Singapore in 2010. I had a chance to visit the Singapore Biennale during the trip, which was eye-opening and inspiring for me.

Teo: I learnt to believe in what I am doing and to continue to practice art every day. On days I feel unmotivated, I remind myself that there are people who appreciate my works, and I am incredibly grateful to be able to do what I genuinely enjoy doing.

How has winning the competition impacted your career?

Goh: Winning the competition was what encouraged me to become a full-time artist. My artworks gained tremendous recognition and I was given many opportunities to participate in art projects and exhibitions in Southeast Asia.

Pannaphan: I was a university student when I won the award in 2010. The experiences I gained during the regional competition in Singapore made me confident that I can have a career as a professional artist.

Teo: It catapulted me into deeper waters sooner than I expected, but I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that came my way. It also helped me work out who I was, even though I was still unsure about many things in my life then, and it cleared a path for me to venture deeper into what I want to do, which is to paint.

Replies were edited and condensed for clarity.

Learn more about 40th UOB Painting of the Year here.

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