Spotlight on Justin Lim: Sovereign Asian Art Prize Artist Highlights

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

The subject of your artwork is a red plastic chair – can you give us a bit of back story about the object?

These red plastic chairs are commonly found throughout Asia, at sidewalk hawker stalls, coffee shops, cafes and food courts. Easily identifiable, they represent a place to gather, share stories or to have a meal. They also provide a source of comfort from everyday life and can tell stories of the struggle of respite. As we emerge from the pandemic, I often reflect upon the time we experienced under lockdown.

During those times, I had spent many hours a day sitting and painting on one of these red plastic chairs. Such an object to me can be seen as an invitation for someone to occupy an otherwise empty space or act as a reminder of a memory of someone dear who has now gone. The chair itself can also be a signifier of class, identity, and hierarchies. All of these thoughts seem apt to me during the pandemic as this common everyday object accompanied me throughout this isolating period and somewhat presented itself as a subject for my painting.

We live in a world today that is always on the move and technology keeps changing our modes of living. When everything is moving at such a pace, I felt it was important to remind myself at times to detach from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and to just sit down, contemplate, and dream a little.

How do you go about creating a ‘sense of artificiality’ in your scenes?

I am interested in creating images that exist as a crossover between reality, imaginary landscapes and collage-esque ‘glitches’, where dreamlike spaces are juxtaposed with the everyday life in disjointed, constructed and at times artificial environments.

The environments are composed and painted from various photographs. They are not direct depictions of actual scenes but are collaged, imagined, rearranged and spliced together. I much prefer them to be a little disorientated and somewhat awkward looking in terms of how they are depicted.

I feel that in contemporary society, seeing is not believing and what we see is not necessarily the truth. It is all a matter of perception. I feel this sentiment relates to our own relationship towards our own living environments and reality.

In what way has art positively impacted your life?

Art has allowed me a space to observe and to find a place in the world.


This interview with Justin Lim 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.