Art Persists: 2021 Ateneo Art Awards

The Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) has announced three winners of the 2021 Ateneo Art Awards, namely, Nice Buenaventura, Christina Lopez, and Jo Tanierla.

The winning works

Nice Buenaventura, vvvv 2019

Nice Buenaventura: In her work exhibited in 2019, Fools will copy but copies will not fool, she tries to imitate print mistakes using charcoal and oil, in the same way as how a printer produces misprints.

In mechanical reproduction, Buenaventura has observed that “…every succeeding copy is an unfaithful copy. The infidelity that may be found in each reproduction when compared to its source image speaks of material conditions, the variance in my unsteady hands, or even the weather.”

Painting such print errors involves slow and tedious work, as Buenaventura’s own homage to manual labor versus the technology of mechanical reproduction.

She describes her art practice as revolving around “the offloading of tensions, often between ethics and aesthetics,” through drawing, painting, and installation.

A master’s degree graduate in media and arts technology from both the Queen Mary University of London and Ateneo de Manila University, Buenaventura is also a recipient of the 2021 Thirteen Artists Award of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Christina Lopez, Portraits (Proxies)

Christina Lopez: In her first solo exhibition titled, Portraits (Proxies) in 2020, she explores artificial intelligence as a double-edged sword, its use, misuse, and abuse in the hands of users, as well as the rise of manipulating identities as weapons.

She shares her concern about surveillance by depicting portraits of people who do not exist through a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) or a machine learning system based on pattern recognition. It uses a dataset of over 500 profile pictures of paid trolls in the Philippines shown in a diptych, Untitled (Portrait I), 2020.

Learning how to code on her own, Lopez found the process important in her work. She also understood too well that if she could do it, many others are also capable of doing the same.

She observes that we need to be wary of abuse disguised as “technological progress” by human hands.

Lopez studied human biology and multimedia arts in De La Salle University, and took a fine art summer school at the Royal College of Art in London.

Jo Tanierla, Kamay na Bakal

Jo Tanierla: A graduate of fine arts, University of the Philippines Diliman, his work is titled Pagburo at Pag-alsa: Natural Depictions and Illustrated Prophecies (Gelacio, 1910) at the UP Vargas Museum in 2020, his first solo exhibition.

Set in an imaginary environment in Luzon in 1910, it retells the journey of Gelacio, an itinerant scholar, and Manta-tio who speaks in tonques, from a bridge in Tayabas to a cave in the mountain of Pamitinan in Montalban. They meet other characters along the way and hear many stories of killings and massacres, then and now. It has two parts: the prophecies as uttered by Manta-tio and the journal entries of Gelacio, set the turn of the 20th century and the present.

Using drawings, paintings, installations, as well as letters and journals, Tanierla recreates this fictive journey inside a gallery. Most of the works are done in paper, in graphite, watercolor, ink, and bleach.

Jo Tanierla Altar ng Sakuna at Dusa

The letters and journals are intentionally aged, by burying underground, to gain that patina of veracity. The work, Altar ng Sakuna at Dusa, depicts an artillery shell, bullets, lacerated lungs, and dead flowers, a reference to the militarized response and failure in the country’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The work was buried and nature did its work of almost disintegrating it, a reminder of the state of decay in our midst.

Art residencies

The 2021 winners will have their artist residencies with Project Space Pilipinas Residency in Lucban, Quezon; No Space Residency in Baguio; A Bungalow Artist’s Foundation Residency in Negros Occidental; and CASA San Miguel Center for the Arts Residency in San Antonio, Zambales.

AAG and the Embassy of Italy – Manila

The AAG also announced its continuing partnership with the Embassy of Italy in Manila to help in its collection of Philippine contemporary art. Brisa Amir is the recipient of the 2021 Ateneo Art Awards – Embassy of Italy Purchase Prize.

Brisa Amir, Untitled Blankets

In Amir’s exhibit in 2019, Untitled Blankets, she uses paper and embroidered textile to evoke makeshift and hand-made shelters sprouting around the city in exploring the changing landscape of her birthplace and community in Krus na Ligas, Quezon City.


In honor of Ateneo Art Gallery’s first benefactor, Fernando Zóbel (1924-1984), the Ateneo Art Awards – Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art is given every year since 2004 (except in 2020) to young artists under the age of 36 whose works were exhibited the previous year.

Museum and gallery directors, artists, and art educators who reside in the Philippines nominate artists for this award.

Some winners include Archie Oclos (2019) for Lupang Hinirang in the 2018 Thirteen Artists exhibition, Cultural Center of the Philippines; Johanna Helmuth for Makeshift, Blanc Gallery; and Cian Dayrit (2017), Exposition, Lopez Museum and Library.


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