Spotlight on Bjorn Calleja: Sovereign Asian Art Prize Artist Highlights

A closer look at the finalists for The 2023 Sovereign Asian Art Prize.

In what way does popular culture influence your work?

Popular culture, particularly the prevalence of social media, has a strong influence on our perceptions of ourselves and the world, the positive and negative impact on our worldview allows for both good and bad ideas for art and our humor and behavior.

As a painter, I am naturally drawn to visual images that I come across both online and in the physical world. Given that social media is predominantly a visual medium, it has a significant impact on my artistic work.

Consequently, I find myself subconsciously and consciously integrating these visual elements on my feed, my background as a graphic designer, and the cartoon aesthetic from my childhood, in my visual language, which are direct results of the influence of popular culture on my creative process.

What do you hope to communicate about the Filipino identity in your work?

The painting “Land of the Mongrel” aims to explore the complex issue of Filipino identity in today’s globalized world. As a Filipino painter, I am interested in reflecting on the ways in which Filipinos navigate the tensions between our historical and cultural heritage and the influences of the contemporary world.

In this painting, I sought to convey the idea that the Filipino identity is not fixed, but rather, it is a constantly evolving and adapting entity. The term “mongrel” in the title refers to the idea of a mixed breed or a hybrid, suggesting that the Filipino identity is the product of multiple influences and cultural exchange. The painting portrays a figure that is in the process of discovering and reconciling its own history with the present moment.

In what way has art positively impacted your life?

Art continues to be my guiding force on how to slowly understand one’s self, the world and life.

This interview with Bjorn Calleja is part of a series of interviews highlighting the shortlisted artists for The 2023 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – the 19th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists.