The Sovereign Art Foundation announces that Halima Cassell’s Acapella has won the 14th Sovereign Asian Art Prize and Muhammad Onaiz Taji’s 25th December 2016 has won The Public Vote Prize.

The winners were selected from a strong shortlist of 30 artworks by a panel of specialists. Art Radar has a look at their works, and speaks with the main prize winner Halima Cassell to know more about the artist and her work.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

A renowned nonprofit in support of projects helping disadvantaged children, the Sovereign Art Foundation announced its 2018 winners for the 14th annual Sovereign Asian Art Prize last Friday. Halima Cassell’s Acapella has earned the artist the title of the 2018 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Winner, a trophy and a money prize of USD30,000. Muhammad Onaiz Taji’s 25th December 2016 was recognised as the public’s favourite piece by popular vote and the artist received an award of USD1,000.

The winners were selected from a strong shortlist of 30 artworks by a panel of specialists including Alexandra A. Seno, Head of Development at Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong; David Elliott, writer, curator and museum director; Fumio Nanjo, Director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Art Education International Director of Hong Kong Arts School; Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of the Financial Times; and Rashid Rana, celebrated contemporary artist. The results were selected from a distinguished group of 328 mid-career artists with a total of 530 entries nominated by over 70 independent art professionals across Asia-Pacific.

Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation. Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.
Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

The various topics exemplified by the shortlisted artworks include identity, cultural heritage and displacement, and time and memory. Howard Bilton, Founder and Chairman of The Sovereign Art Foundation, said of the shortlist and winner:

We are delighted Halima Cassell has won this year’s Prize. Acapella will make a beautiful addition to the collection of Prize finalists. Halima’s work is the second sculpture to win the prize and the first bronze piece in the collection…

Art Radar takes a closer look to the winning artworks.

The 14th Annual Sovereign Asian Art Prize: Acapella by Halima Cassell

Pakistan-born Halima Cassell (b. 1975) graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with an MA in Design (2002) and a BA in 3D Design (1994). She began her artistic practice with geometry that Cassell skillfully manipulated to create an illusion of movement and an interaction between shadow and light. Cassell’s artworks engage the viewer in a combination of architectural principles, movement and light.

Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Halima Cassell, ‘Acapella’, 2016, bronze, 41 x 30 x 30 cm, edition 2/8. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Her work has been exhibited extensively, including solo shows like “Outside In’”(BelsayHall, Castle & Gardens, Northumberland) and at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf (London) and the group show “Things of Beauty Growing”, Yale Center (New Haven, 2017). She was an invited guest at the World Contemporary Ceramics 4th Biennale in South Korea (2007), completed a residency and show in Fuki, Japan (2007), a residency at NCA and Indus Valley university, Pakistan in 2009 and recivded a scholarship from Brian Mercer Trust for stone carving in Pietrasanta, Italy in 2011. Her work has won numerous awards and is held in public and private collections worldwide.

The winning sculptural piece Acapella was inspired by the artist’s deep love of music. The piece is composed of curves that create an impression of ripples and flows, representing musical movement and rhythm. Its dark patina resembles a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of the night, a nocturne.

Art Radar spoke with Cassell to find out more about her practice and winning work.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? We would like to let the readers know who you are, what your background is, where you are from in terms of experiences and interests in contemporary art…

I was born in Kashmir, Pakistan and grew up in the north-west of England, now living in Shropshire… a fusion of cultural environments which has shaped my identity and underpins my practice. My work is characterised by the interaction of bold, simple forms overlaid with intricate surfaces, stemming from a fascination with the symbolism of repetitive motifs.

Geometry is the starting point for my designs and I manipulate this to create illusions of movement and enhance the interplay of light and shadow. In this way my work engages the viewer, inviting further exploration. Clay was my first love and my work has naturally evolved to include marble, wood, concrete, bronze and glass, each offering different challenges of mutability and scale. [With] The combination of architectural principles, movement and light, I hope to engage the viewer in dialogue with my work and invites further exploration.

How did you hear about the Sovereign Asian Art Prize?

I heard about the Sovereign Asian Art Prize,through the person who had nominated me, Alnoor Mitha FRSA. I was extremely excited by this, for me it was a wonderful privilege and opportunity for my work to be part of this prestigious awardand what the organisation itself stood for.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Could you tell us more about the concept of your work Acapella? What has driven you to choose bronze as the material?

Acapella is inspired by my deep love of music, the ripples and flows representative of musical movement and rhythm. The dark patina resembles a ‘nocturne’ (from the French word meaning ‘nocturnal’, from the Latin nocturnus), a musical composition that is inspired by or evocative of  the night.

The polished edges shimmer like the light created and transmitted through the stars in the dark sky, enhancing the overall movement of the heavily incised elements of the sculpture. The model for this piece was carved in clay and then cast in bronze.

What is appealing about sculptures and three-dimensional works to you?

The appealing things to me about sculpture and working in three-dimensional forms are created through the love and fascination I have with architecture. In my work I seek inspiration from a diverse range of sources. Since childhood, I have been intrigued by buildings from different cultures, especially those with elements which have been sculpted by hand. The facets and shadows created as a result of these carvings are part of this attraction… how the play of light dramatises and gives vitality to the architecture. I try to capture all of this in my work. But it is the notion that these structures have a live presence which particularly fascinates me. I imagine basic shapes repeating, distorting, and creating form in order to create beauty out of the earth.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Behind-the-scenes of artist Halima Cassell’s works. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Could you walk our readers through the process of creating your work?

I use various types of manual and mechanical tools and knives to carve into my sculptures. The ideas behind each of the pieces is conceived in the same methodical way.

The form itself is important and exciting for me. This is especially so when a flat design is mapped over a convex or concave form, giving a new dimension to my design. The process of making each piece is hugely labour intensive and at various stages [involves] high risk in the making. The sculpture undergoes four consecutive stages of making.

The first stage is making the basic form by hand. In the second stage – I call this the “shorthand” of my thoughts – I conceive and develop the various design ideas and possibilities around a theme or project and record them in my notebook. The third stage is where I mathematically divide the surface area of the form in order to map out the chosen design onto the material.

The final stage is the carving. For me this is a meditative, but immensely physical process, from which I derive a lot of pleasure. Such enjoyment is possible because by this stage I carefully and fully plan the direction of every plane, to the extent that I am able to identify which direction to carve the entire piece.

What are you currently working on? What should our readers look out for in the next few months?

I am currently working on various projects, commissions and exhibitions. This can be seen on my website or if you would like a regular update by e-newsletter, you can sign on to through my website.

Muhammad Onaiz Taji, ‘25th December 2016’, ink on wasli paper, 121 x 103.5 x 4 cm. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Muhammad Onaiz Taji, ‘25th December 2016’, ink on wasli paper, 121 x 103.5 x 4 cm. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

The Public Vote Prize Winner: 25th December 2016 by Muhammad Onaiz Taji

Also from Pakistan, Muhammad Onaiz Taji (b. 1991) graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore with a BFA in Indo-Persian Miniature Painting (2016). The ‘kalam’ or ‘line work’ of the Indo-Persian miniatures have inspired Taji to define people’s characteristics in his pieces. With careful brush stroke and control, he gives close attention to the details of individual people, hinting to the activities of the unsystematic crowd.

Taji’s 25th December 2016 captures groups of musicians gathering and jamming with different instruments. It is an event that is held weekly in Lahore at Shah Jamal. When the viewer looks at this piece from afar, organic shapes and patterns are recognisable. Still, taking a closer look, the individual musicians do not lose their organic quality, giving the viewer an illusion that a variety of musicians gather to improvise various folk and classical music pieces.

Sovereign Art Prize 2018 exhibition, 26 April – 5 May 2018, HART Hall, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Rd Central, Hong Kong. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

Sovereign Art Prize 2018 exhibition, 26 April – 5 May 2018, HART Hall, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Rd Central, Hong Kong. Image courtesy The Sovereign Art Foundation.

The shortlisted artworks were first exhibited at HART HALL at H Queen’s, Hong Kong and then The James Christie Room at Christie’s Hong Kong between 26 April 2018 and 10 May 2018. The winner announcement and ceremony took place at the Foundation’s annual Gala Dinner and Auction ‘Make It Better’ on 11 May 2018 in Hong Kong. The auction proceeds were split evenly between the artists and the foundation’s charitable projects.

Gabrielle Cheng

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Related Topics: Pakistani, prizesbronze, painting, Hong Kong

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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