Jan Calleja Strikes Back


The first thing one would notice in a Jan Calleja piece is how he brilliantly does it. Functioning more like a mechanic Calleja is your postmodern craftsman. One that is grounded in the everyday using unique visual language versed in contemporary meaning. He appropriates model cars, airplanes, guns and even other toys by deconstructing them out of context and renewing their shelf lives or what is termed as scratched-built.

In Jan Solo II Calleja resumes further this promising yet uncharted terrain of toy-themed sculptures. Part of that bigger canopy in urban street art and culture, each piece has a story to tell. Ostentatious yet naïve, their peculiarities draw out connections to geographical displacements, historical recurrences and larger psychological social systems.

With a degree in visual communications at the University of the Philippines Calleja acquired a distinct aesthetic taste that would be his prowess to execute his big bright bold ideas. To thoroughly comprehend his brilliance one must take a mental journey with him, travelling to places so distant we may not initially see a way back. When we do return to the gallery however we can marvel at the fact that he has somehow succeeded in distilling the whole experience into the physical object. Fathoming deep as mindscapes he brings us back to the materiality we began looking long and hard at.

His pieces somehow present us with problem and a solution. Harnessing time and space in challenging our understanding of the various layers of his process, Calleja strikes back and often emerges triumphant and unscathed.

Inspired by Star Wars he watched as kid two Walkers are simulated into his signature use of the Volkswagen 1964 kombi. For Calleja it is that classic back-of-the head recall of its rear that he favors and could not be replicated by any metal conduit. Often significant to Calleja is how the viewer draws the thin line of duality in perception that as he is reminded of that classic 60s family van yet now converted into All Terrain All Scout Walkers. The AT-AS has legs as primary method of locomotion in a military operation. Designs for such walkers were utilized by the Galactic Empire some say were inspired by the use of animal cavalry from ancient civilizations.

The All Terrain series are some of the best examples of walkers. Such that AT-AT Walker (All Terrain Armored Transport) that four-legged vehicle used by the imperial forces would emanate from a Land Rover by adding four long legs reminiscent of their function in the film series.

Another Volkswagen foray is constructed into Tie Fighter. The elegance of the Volkswagen is favorably reprised and impresses him all over again. The car company should hire him for his long exemplary promotions.

Meanwhile Calleja’s Tie interceptor would emanate from the mini cooper. Sourcing from the Tie Fighter this dagger shaped airborne machine was the symbol of the imperial fleet. They carried aboard Star Destroyers and battle stations. They were single pilot vehicles made for fast paced dog fights with Rebel X-wings and other star fighters.

Fascinated by the survival tales of World War 1, Calleja paid tribute to these recurring memories with the two rebel x-wing fighters. Born from FokerDR1 Triplane and Scout SE5 that were used as weapons of destruction, Calleja adapted them into less violent yet simulated mode.

Calleja’s first foray in cars was with Formula 1 series back in where he upgrade by installing both the driver with the speeding machines. In a previous essay, the word toy as play was exercised. The element of play offers a deeper meaning when referred to how Calleja maneuvers his mechanical antics into physical fruition. The Land Speeder from Mercedes 300 SL series comes to mind.

To appreciate Calleja as an aesthete one should reflect the thwarting of his design as it stretches beyond one’s retinal pleasure. With his bare hands it is both science and art. His belief that all shapes have been made because industrial use, if one can imagine then one can build. It is only a matter of finding the perfect combination for the situation at hand.  The possibilities are infinite in a galaxy not far away.  
Jan Solo II is ongoing at the Art Portal 2/F Eastwest Bank BGP Complex 2, Mc Arthur Hi-way, Matina, Davao City.