Spotlight on Alvin Ong: Sovereign Asian Art Prize Interview

This interview with Alvin Ong is part of a series of interviews highlighting the shortlisted artists for The 2022 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – the 18th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists. Selected from over 400 entries, the finalists hail from 16 countries and regions across Asia-Pacific. Of the artists, 27 are new to The Prize – appearing in the shortlist for the first time. Read on to discover more about the finalists, their key points of inspiration, and why it is important to champion the work of artists from Asia-Pacific.


Alvin Ong (Singapore) was shortlisted for his work ‘Staycation’ – capturing the complexities of the human form and exploring themes of isolation, alienation, and desire.


How did you go about developing your distinctive, surrealist style?

My paintings come into being quite organically, in succession. This work was made last year as part of a larger body of work for a Shanghai solo, opening later this year. Recently, I have noticed how food references, smart phones and screens often recur in my work. Perhaps it has something to do with connectivity, since they have become ever more so, the channels through which we relate to one another and create communal experiences, at this moment in time.


What interests you about the human relationship with technology?

As a painter I’m interested in the performativity of screens; how they function as mirrors, serving as extensions of desire, a palliative for our restlessness, and a culture through which we reconstruct our own realities, for better or worse.


What significance does the title ‘Staycation’ have to your work?

Marking a shift towards introspection in a world where human intimacy has taken on new meaning, Staycation is a reflection of my ongoing interests in the physicality of the body, and how human experiences of inhabitation are being reshaped in the current moment.


How important is it to support the work of artists in Asia-Pacific?

It’s hard for me to speak on behalf of such a vast diasporic region, but I think it’s important to support moments and modes of encounter, when one culture meets another. Like wearing new glasses, really. This is me speaking from my experiences of distance and displacement living between Singapore and London over the last few years, and how these periodic returns have made me see each “home” in a different light, and kept my practice from going stale.


To vote for Ong’s work, click here. The most popular finalist will receive the Public Vote Prize and USD1,000.


To register interest in purchasing Ong’s artwork, please email Artwork sales will be launched in person and online during Art Central, from 26 – 29 May 2022. Proceeds will be spilt equally between the artist and charitable programmes.

‘Spotlight on Alvin Ong’ courtesy of Sovereign Asian Art Prize, May 2022