The 2020 Angelico Art Award winners with their masterpieces from L to R: Ms Katherine Loo, Ms Lee Kowling, Ms Reena Lee, Ms Colette Goh, Ms Demi Tang and Ms Cassandra Loke.

Recounting the wonders of the Lord


Michelle Tan

The 3rd Angelico Art Award (AAA) ceremony was held  on Nov 18, 2020, at CANA the Catholic Centre. It was co-organised by the Catholic Foundation (CF) and Heartspace, an art therapy studio.

Over 50 pieces of art were on display, each providing a unique interpretation of the theme of this year’s competition “I will recount all your wonders” (Psalm 9:2) in a myriad colours, using a variety of techniques and different mediums. Despite attendance being restricted to only 25 people because of Covid-19 safety measures and everyone having to be seated one metre apart, the exuberant atmosphere could not be dampened.

Heart-breaking and heart-warming

A record 206 entries were received. The three judges, Mr Lee Suan Hiang, former CEO of the National Arts Council, Ms Vera Ong, Director of Art-2 Gallery, and Monsignor John-Paul Tan OFM, had the very difficult task of shortlisting 52 of them for the three Open Category and three Youth Category awards.

Mr Lee, the only judge who was able to attend the ceremony, described his experience judging the competition as “heart-warming yet heart-breaking” – heart-warming to see the overwhelming response, yet heart-breaking to have to decide on just six award winners.

CF’s Ms Juliana Foo observed that this year’s AAA theme was especially relevant in bringing out the challenges faced by the artists with Covid-19. “Each of the entrants has beautifully depicted the various aspects of the theme through the lens of faith integrated with art, surprising us with what ends up on the canvas,” she said.

The spirituality of art

Ms Lee Kowling, the winner of the Open Category and a parishioner of St Mary of the Angels, said in wonder, “As a freelance graphic designer and illustrator in the commercial world, I never realised that language could be visual, and that art could be powerful prayer and healing for the soul.” Another shortlisted artist, Mr Dean Mark Enoza, had described his experience as “90 per cent contemplation and 10 per cent execution!”

Ms Colette Goh, a Secondary 3 student at CHIJ St Joseph from the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was overwhelmed that she won a High Commendation Award in the Youth Category on her first try. “The challenges I faced in conceptualising the artwork, then painting and adding the texture reminded me of the everyday trials of life we have to go through. But recounting the wonders of God has reminded me that in today’s consumeristic society, sometimes we forget to appreciate the people around us and to share God’s bountiful blessings with others. This competition has really opened my eyes to God’s presence and deepened my faith.”

As Ms Demi Tang, 19, a non-Catholic Christian and winner of the Youth category, shared, “Painting my entire recollection of what the Lord has done for me has been truly therapeutic: I also recalled the wonder of my grandfather, who despite struggling with his illness, never lost his faith. He was the inspiration behind my art.”

The language of the heart

Msgr John-Paul had said at the inaugural AAA competition in 2016 that, “Art and spirituality go hand in hand. They speak the same language.”

Ms Lee encouraged everyone to try. “Anyone can speak the language of art, it is not about technique or talent, but of self-expression.” Mr Lee added, “It is not about the end-result, but about the process. These artists, by recounting the wonders the Lord did for them, are inspiring others to do the same.”

Indeed, Ms Wendy Kho, a non-Catholic Christian participant, summed it up when she said she was “delighted to know that the Catholic Church had such meaningful events to encourage not only artists, but also non-believers, to get to know God.”