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UOB Painting of the Year 2022: Gold Award

To hear the UOB Painting of the Year 2022 Gold Award went to a STEM-trained artist may come as a surprise to many, but Guan Ming is evidently not one who accepts being put neatly in a box. When he recounted his unconventional journey to be an artist, he was what he called an "accidental" scientist who maintained his passion in art all along. His winning piece, Tingxiemon, juxtaposes childhood favourite monsters of the video game with the much feared and hated monsters of the educational system in Singapore, essentially pushing the benign-looking piece into a scathing critique of the latter.

UOB Painting of the Year, Guan Ming, Art Herald Magazine, Singapore Art Magazine, Singapore Art Publication, Singapore Art Media, UOBPOY, Tingxiemon,
Singaporean artist Guan Ming

Growing up in the last years of the Mao era and its wake in a small town in China, Guan Ming is a stranger to the hours of tuition and extracurriculars that have become such a dreaded every-day for children here on top of the educational rigour. Both from his distance, and from being a father with three sons who went through the education here, he sees the unnaturalness of this phenomenon. He was himself given an accidental push into the sciences after his university entrance exam results determined his path, and he has spent most of his life and career in that field, as opposed to pursuing his passion for art. It is of little coincidence that issues concerning education become a key topic in his artwork.

As one who experienced the rigorous Singaporean school system, I concur that the myriad of jumbled doodles of Tingxiemon’s backdrop is reminiscent of a frenzied mental state trying to keep up with the omnipresent schoolwork and the academic expectations, just as Guan Ming intended. With a juxtaposed realistic rendering of various subjects in the foreground, he reinvokes the nostalgia of yesteryears of children of a generation seen indulging in various play-time activities when not succumbing to the demands of education and homework. Given how the demands of formal education here grow more and more rigorous with every generation, even every year, it is ensured that Guan Ming's work, perhaps all a little too bitterly, will be relevant for a while to come.

Art Herald Magazine, Singapore Art Media, UOB Painting of the Year 2022, Singapore Art Publication,  Tingxiemon (Spelling Monster)
Tingxiemon (Spelling Monster) | Guan Ming | 183cm × 122cm Mixed media on canvas

Likewise, the artwork touches on the topic of Mother Tongue education, which is a unique concern in Singapore due to the bilingual education policy. Despite recognition of the importance of Mother Tongue for the preservation of ethnic culture, promotion of multilingual communication across the various ethnic groups, and as a tool for the professional field, the undeniable reality is that it has now become the least favourite subject for many students and is effectively taught as a second language. It may even impede communication with the dialect-speaking older generation, many of whom are uneducated in standardised languages. Thus, Tingxiemon is not just a "monster" to be tackled for our children, but for our society beyond school.

As such, Guan Ming's piece is, I believe, a deceptively playful tribute to all who have fallen through the cracks of the Mother Tongue system, from struggling students to ethnic minorities to the older generation.

Gua Ming dubs his win “validating”, propelling his career after having previously seen himself as a “newcomer” to the arts scene. With this encouragement, he hopes to pursue his creative endeavours, even maybe doing a solo exhibition sometime soon.


Registration for the 42nd UOB Painting of the Year competition is now open. Visit and submit your entries through the website:


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