Eight masters who started as student art winners

“TWINS” by Bencab.

Whether artists are born or made is debatable, but the talents and contributions of these renowned masters in the Filipino art scene are undeniable. Beneath the differences in styles, media and inspirations for their artworks lie a common experience that in a way, contributed to and powered them to be the celebrated artists they are today. Get to know these eight Filipino artists whose university years were punctuated by student art competition victories:

Better known as “BenCab,” Benedicto Cabrera was a recipient of the National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts (Painting) in 2006. BenCab is a renowned Filipino painter who has also established himself in the international stage, holding exhibitions from London to New York. He has won several major art awards and is widely hailed as a master of contemporary Philippine art. From his college years at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, he competed and won Second Prize at the 12th Shell National Students Art Competition for his oil painting “Blue Serenity,” a surreal abstraction of barung-barong (shanties).

“ABIDING Me” by Juvenal Sansó.

Juvenal Sansó, Third Prize, 1951 Shell National Students Art Competition

Sansó may be Spanish by birth but proudly Filipino at heart. In his mission to give back to his beloved Philippines and its art community, Sansó has played an important role in inspiring young Filipino artists to excel in their field. He served as artist in residence for the Art Interaction program of the Shell National Students Art Competition. As a young artist, the WWII war years resulted in his so-called “Black Period” when he painted exclusively in black and white with gruesome imagery. However, the years 1950 and 1951 became the turning points for his work: Sanso won various competitions in water color and oil categories of the Art Association of the Philippines, he also won third place in the 1st Shell National Students Art Competition with his piece “Cha Bianang” before leaving for further studies in Europe. A multi-faceted artist, Sansó has painted oils, watercolor, acrylic and his favored ink and dry brush medium. He has also made a name for himself as one of the most innovative, respected and highly in demand artists today.

“SURGING Red” by Jose Tanig Joya.

Jose Tanig Joya, First Prize, 1952 Shell National Students Art Competition


Considered as a pioneer modern and abstract artist, Jose Tanig Joya is said to have “spearheaded the birth, growth and flowering of abstract expressionism” in the Philippines. His abstract expressionist works are said to be characterized by calligraphic gestures and linear forces, and utilized a variety of techniques, including controlled drips, impasto strokes and transparent layering. Joya’s sense of color vibrancy was inspired by the hues of the Philippine landscape. In 1953, Joya graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Fine Art, and recognized as the university’s first Magna cum Laude. It was also during these years as a student when Joya joined and won first prize in the 2nd Shell National Students Arts Competition for his oil painting piece entitled “Gossips”. Joya also influenced young artists in exploring multimedia. He designed and painted on ceramic vessels, plates and tiles.

“6 CLOWNS” by Ang Kiukok.

Ang Kiukok, Third Prize, 1955 Shell National Students Art Competition

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts describes Ang Kiukok as one of the most vital and dynamic figures who emerged during the 1960s. Known for his cubist-like works, often choosing dynamic or disturbing subjects, depicting a style that infused influences from cubism, surrealism and expressionism, Ang Kiukok created work shaped by the angst of the times, and imbued with nationalist fervor and sociological agenda. As a student, he won third prize for his piece “Calesas” under the oil painting category of the 5th Shell National Students Art Competition. The works of Ang Kiukok can be found in key art collections such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines, National Historical Museum of Taipei and the National Museum in Singapore. He received the National Artist award in 2001.

“ZOOMORPH” by Leeroy New.

Leeroy New, Second Prize, 2004 and 2006 Shell National Students Art Competition

Leeroy New is a contemporary Filipino fine artist-designer whose practice intersects with film, theater, product design, fashion and visual arts. New is a Visual Arts graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts and the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. As a college student, he competed under the Sculpture Category of the 37th and 39th Shell National Students Art Competition and won 2nd prize for his piece, “Prima Materia” in 2004, and “Zoomorph” in 2006 which also won second prize. Prior to becoming renowned for his collaboration with Kermit Tesoro, Leeroy New had already been recognized and exhibited in the 2008 Singapore Biennale and the 2009 Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale.

“THE Forest” by Ronald Ventura.

Ronald Ventura, First Prize, 1990 Shell National Students Art Competition

Ronald Ventura is a contemporary Filipino artist known for melding realism, graffiti and cartoons. He takes inspiration from science fiction, Western history, Asian mythology and popular comic book characters in creating his art pieces. Ventura’s “Grayground” painting was sold in 2011 for $1.1million at Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings auction in Hong Kong — setting the record for the most ever paid Southeast Asian contemporary art. His exposure in art-making started as early as his elementary and high school years, and continued on during his college years when he competed in art contests including the 23rd Shell National Student Art Competition where his painting entitled “Dama” won first prize in the Oil/Acrylic Category.

“BARKING Up the Wrong Tree” by Rodel Tapaya.

Rodel Tapaya, First Prize, 2001 Shell National Students Art Competition

Rodel Tapaya is a widely renowned and acclaimed Filipino painter whose works have won several regional art contests and gained international exposure through exhibitions. Tapaya’s work combines folk narrative and contemporary reality using a range of media — from acrylic on canvasses to under-glass painting, traditional crafts, diorama and drawing. His breakthrough came when he won the coveted Nokia Art Awards. He completed his studies at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts where he joined and emerged as winner of the 34th Shell NSAC for his entry entitled “From East to West #2” under the Oil/Acrylic Category. He is considered a favorite at Southeast Asian auction houses where his art pieces are highly regarded. His work is widely exhibited in the Southeast Asian region, as well as in Beijing, Berlin, New York and Tokyo.

“MARTHA’S Dance” by Luis Yee Jr.

Luis Yee Jr., Finalist, 1967 Shell National Students Art Competition

Luis E. Yee Jr. or “Junyee” is pioneer of site-specific art in the Philippines, incorporating found objects and natural materials. Junyee’s practice explores painting and sculpture, into an installation of unique pieces. His works have been recognized for their pioneering approach to site-specificity. He was awarded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts the Diwa ng Sining at Kalinangan award in 1998. During his university years, he competed in the 17th Shell National Students Art Competition with his piece entitled “Condemned No. 3” under the Sculpture category.

Just like these art masters — who were nurtured through student programs and competitions that recognize youth talent and contribution to art — our country’s next internationally-acclaimed Filipino artists and National Artists are yet to be discovered. With the right opportunities and platforms, students today can become art masters of the future.

This is why Pilipinas Shell, through the National Students Art Competition — the first, most enduring and highly anticipated student art competition in the country — supports young Filipino talents in today’s art scene. The National Students Art Competition has been, for 51 years, championing Filipino art and honoring talents of Filipino artists and art masters. This year’s theme, “Perspective,” celebrates young visionaries whose magnificent perspectives of tomorrow contribute in propelling the country toward progress.

The Shell NSAC is open to all college students enrolled with at least 12 units in a recognized Philippine school in the school year 2018-2019. Participants can submit their works in oil/acrylic, watercolor, sculpture, and digital fine arts (print).

For more information about the 51st Shell National Students Art Competition and how to join, visit http://www.shell.com.ph/shell_art. Students may also inquire with the Fine Arts department or the student affairs office of their respective colleges and universities.

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