Bangladeshi artist Imtiaj Rasel, who was in the running for this year's prestigious Sovereign Asian Art Prize, has bagged the Public Vote Prize.

Rasel's artwork, titled 'Journey by Bus', received the most votes from art admirers around the world. Of the 8,000 online votes, the convincing majority went to Rasel, the Sovereign Asian Art Prize authorities said.

It was the only selected piece from Bangladesh, which competed in the online voting competition with 29 other artworks that got shortlisted for The 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, from artists throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Artist Rithika Merchant from India received the Vogue Hong Kong Women's Art Prize in this year's edition, while the grand prize went to artist Li Binyuan from China.

Rasel, in fact, competed and achieved the honour as one of the finalists with artists from India, Australia, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, China, Japan, Iran, Singapore, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the host nation of the prize, Hong Kong.

Sharing his joy with UNB, Rasel said, "I am extremely honoured to receive the 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, such a prestigious award in the world. I am grateful for the recognition I have received for my work, because I am very sure that every other nominee for this award was as capable, if not more, of winning this prize."

"I am very thankful to artist Tayeba Begum Lipi Apa for nominating me for this global competition and helping me to create this memory of a lifetime. I would also like to thank everyone who supported me, from fellow artists and the art fraternity to my countrymen, who voted for me", he added.

Quoting that this prize will serve as a big inspiration for his future path, Rasel said, "I hope the wheels of this 'Journey by Bus' will travel more."

Rasel holds an MFA degree in painting from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata (2019). He went to Kolkata for higher studies after completing his bachelor's degree in painting from the Faculty of Fine Art at the University of Dhaka in 2015. He is also the recipient of the ICCR scholarship.

Using his travel experiences as a visual language, Rasel explores connections between places, culture, environment, time, and memory. Through this practice, he is instilled with a sense of wanderlust, through which new narratives are created.

Rasel has received the Artist Grant for the Brihatta Home Art Project, Brihatta Art Foundation (2020), and the Kazi Abdul Baset Memorial Award from the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka (2016). His artworks were exhibited at the 52nd Annual Exhibition, Birla Academy of Fine Art, Kolkata (2019); 23rd National Exhibition, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka (2019), and All India Fine Art Annual Exhibition, Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (2018), to name a few.

The Sovereign Asian Art Prize was launched in 2003 to increase the international exposure of artists in the region while raising funds for programmes supporting disadvantaged children using expressive arts. Held annually, the prize is now recognised as the most established and prestigious annual art award in the Asia-Pacific region.

All the 30 shortlisted artworks for the 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize were exhibited at Hong Kong's famous 9 Queen's Road Central Building from May 5 to May 16, 2021.

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