Second winner of the Han Nefkens Foundation – BACC Award for Contemporary Art  

4 February – 6 March, 2016

In his upcoming exhibition, Scene from a Wake, he presents a set of works that look at disparate incidents spread over a century. Protagonists include a social reformer, a planter, a dentist, a restaurateur, a bishop, and an artist. Thomas continues to build up his collection of stories from one place, persistently archiving alternative moments from different histories, some of which then come together based on commonalities that may be odd but are significant. In Scene from a Wake, Thomas puts forward the breakdown of plans, inescapable outcomes and the future as a space ripe for speculation.

Anup Mathew Thomas (born 1977) lives and works in Bengaluru, India. His art deals primarily with the photograph, focussing on the slippages between documentary and artistic practice. Often working in series, Thomas’ images offer access to microhistories and subcultures embedded in what is seemingly everyday reality. Situated between documentary form and constructed imagery, his practice is consistently in dialogue with the complexities of representation through the photographic image.

In the words of curator and writer Melanie Pocock: “Thomas’ works focus on the nuances and prickly veracity of photography … A careful balancing of planning, framing and contingency, his photographs fuse these elements to the point where their exact makeup is almost impossible to define – despite their accompaniment by explanatory texts authored by the artist.”

Anup Mathew Thomas was a recipient of the 2014 the Abraaj Group Art Prize. His solo exhibitions include Native Ball and Revisions, GALLERYSKE, Bengaluru (2014), Double Feature, Lothringer13, Munich (2013), Hereinafter, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2012), an exhibition at the Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo (2010), View from Conolly’s Plot, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2010), Assembly, presented by GALLERYSKE at Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2008) andMetropolitan, Gasworks Gallery, London (2007).

The Han Nefkens Foundation – BACC Award for Contemporary Art is a collaborative initiative of the Han Nefkens Foundation and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). The award is aimed at up-and-coming artists under 40 living in Asia. A long list of candidates is put together by ten experts from different areas in Asia who select three artists each. A jury then chooses the winning artist.

This biannual award seeks to encourage artists in Asia who have already developed a solid body of work, though have yet to be showcased in major institutions. The total prize of 15,000 US dollars consists of a $3,000 artist’s fee and $12,000 towards the production of new work, along with a residency and an exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

For the first winner (in 2013), 10 well-known professionals in Asian art circles were invited to select thirty Asia-based artists considered to have outstanding practices, but who had not yet shown at a major institution. The selected artists were then presented to five jury members so as to select a single winner. Jury members were Mr. Han Nefkens, founder of the Han Nefkens Foundation, Ms. Hilde Teerlinck, Director of the Han Nefkens Foundation/Director of FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais, Ms. Luckana Kunavichayanont, Director of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Ms. Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and Mr. Feng Boyi, an independent curator and art critic from China.

This jury of international art experts unanimously chose Chinese artist Zhou Tao, who was invited to a carry out a residency in Bangkok and produce artwork meant to engage the local context. Through his work, Zhou Tao has consistently explored his own identity and surroundings, touching on a broad range of subjects of interest to him.

In 2015, the international jury unanimously selected Indian artist Anup Mathew Thomas as the second winner of the award, citing his capacity for creative inquiry and the way his work comes close to transcending the boundaries of photography, using it in ways that push at the limits of the medium’s established position. The jury praised his patient, methodical approach to the painstaking process of research and documentation over longer periods of time, allowing the material to come into its own. The artist’s method ensures that ‘place’ might become a natural background rather than a geographical ‘other’, allowing the stories being told to be accented, observed and experienced in such a way as to touch the audience and invite further reflection and discussion.

The 2015 jury was comprised of Prof. Ute Meta Bauer, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art – Nanyang Technological University, Dr Yongwoo Lee, President of the International Biennial Association (IBA), Bose Krishnamachari, President of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, Luckana Kunavichayanont, Director of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (Bangkok), Hilde Teerlinck, President of the Han Nefkens Foundation and Mr. Han Nefkens.