FOR EYES that are quick to judge, the three winning works of this year’s Ateneo Art Awards-Fernando Zobel Prizes for Visual Arts could be perceived and brushed off as ordinary, or simple, or repeatable. But not when you take a look beyond the surface to discover their narrative and the labor behind them.

You are invited to take a survey of the winning and short-listed artworks at Ateneo Art Gallery in Arete, a new creative hub within Ateneo de Manila University. The exhibition runs until Dec. 2.

Young artist Gale Encarnacion’s winning exhibition, called Blow Me, in its most simplistic description, is about bubble gum shaped as body organs. Overall, her works appeared like the pink fetuses in jars we often see in laboratories. But her works are more than just masticated gum in medical jars. She said they are metaphors of the body: it could be shaped and re-shaped, blown up – and perhaps, chewed on?

“I like working on the organic and the ephemeral,” she said.

Blow Me was her thesis exhibition at the UP College of Fine Arts, which ran from May to June 2016. As one of this year’s award recipients, she is granted an art residency at the Artesan Gallery in Singapore.

Ms. Encarnacion is a first-time nominee in the Ateneo Art Awards, as is another winner, Costantino Zicarelli, whose winning exhibition, Prelude to a Billion Years, was shown at Artinformal from September to October 2016.

Mr. Zicarelli utilized and manipulated graphite and charcoal to reimagine Fernando Amorsolo’s famed “marca demonio” Ginebra logo featuring St. Michael about to stab a demon with his sword.

The artist created his own wallpaper swatches, which were silk-screened onto the canvas and then painted with black and silver acrylic. The artworks’ fine manipulation appeared almost mechanically printed.

If there is one problem, though, his artworks were put behind glass making them hard to photograph and even see because of the reflection of light. But this challenge invites onlookers to take a very, very close look at his pieces.

Mr. Zicarelli, a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines 13 Artists Awards in 2012, received an art residency at the Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom from the Ateneo Art Awards.

Short-listed in 2014, Cian Dayrit finally won the Ateneo Art Award for works that appropriated and played around with maps.

His winning works, called Exposition, were first shown in a group exhibition at the Lopez Museum and Library from September to December 2016.

Known for marrying history, iconography, and art to make a statement or to ask a question, Mr. Dayrit’s winning pieces did so again. He used the Lopez Library’s 1734 Murillo Velarde map and cartographer Jodocus Hondius’ depiction of the Orient to question how we view ourselves before, during, and after colonization.

The 1734 Murillo Velarde map is a hydrographical and chorographical chart of the Philippines and is said to be the first and most important scientific map of the country. The map is considered one of the major reasons why the Philippines won its claim over Scarborough Shoal (called Panacot on the map) and Spratly Islands (then called Los Bajos de Paragua) against China in the UN Arbitral Tribunal in 2016.

Exposition is a tapestry of mixed media including a rosary and icons. Mr. Dayrit worked with the embroiders of Pasig Market to overwrite and put statements on the map. Beside the Philippine Islands at the center, the Murillo Velarde map has drawings on the sides of the country’s indigenous peoples and their ways of life as well as drawings of Spanish and Chinese traders. The artist had the words “Polo perwisyo putragis” (forced labor, inconvenience, and an expression of annoyance based on the word “puta” or whore) embroidered beside the original map.

Mr. Dayrit received an art residency at La Trobe University’s Visual Arts Centre in Australia.

Also announced at the awarding ceremony on Oct. 1 were the two winners of the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prizes in Art Criticism. They are Arianna Mercado, whose prize is a regular column in The Philippine Star’s Arts and Culture section to be published twice a month for a year, and Josephine Roque, whose prize is contributing six articles to the ArtAsiaPacific Magazine for one year. – Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman