See the poetic light

Titled Poems Of Lightness, Tan Kian Por's latest art show here has works from his new series with red, blue and black hues

The latest solo exhibition of Tan Kian Por (left) features artworks such as Shui Yue Xiang Wang (background) and a portrait of a Balinese man (top) as well as abstract Chinese calligraphy (above).
The latest solo exhibition of Tan Kian Por (far left) features artworks such as Shui Yue Xiang Wang (far left, background) and a portrait of a Balinese man (center) as well as abstract Chinese calligraphy (far right). PHOTOS: TAN KIAN POR

Chinese ink painter Tan Kian Por's semi-abstract works, including the calligraphy pieces and seal carvings he showed in Beijing recently, are back for his latest solo exhibition.

It opened at the Fullerton Hotel on Wednesday.

The 2001 Cultural Medallion recipient, who was invited by the prestigious Beijing Fine Art Academy to exhibit 80 of his works there from May 29 to June 4, wants to show them to his collectors and supporters here.

The show in Beijing was his second major solo exhibition in China after his first at the Shanghai Fine Art Academy in 2003.

The Singapore exhibition, titled Poems Of Lightness and organised by Gallery NaWei, features 60 works. They include his abstract calligraphy pieces, seven paintings of human figures and some of his seal carvings.

"It about time I hold another exhibition of my paintings here since my last one was more than 10 years ago in 2004," says Tan, 66, a full- time painter and, until recently, a part-time lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where he graduated from in 1970.


  • WHERE: Lobby Level, 01-08 The Fullerton Hotel, 1 Fullerton Square

    WHEN: Till Sept 12, 10am to 7pm daily


But more importantly, he adds, he has been working on a new series of abstract works titled From Shui Yue Xiang Wang To Da Xiang Wu Xing, which means the progression from form to formless. The new works have yet to be shown here in a solo exhibition.

He points out that in his new series, distinguished by its red, blue and black hues, the fish surrounding or swimming towards the moon represent water and are meant to challenge the viewer's imagination.

Presently the adviser of Siaw Tao Chinese Seal-carving, Calligraphy and Painting Society, which he founded with friends in 1971, he is known for his creative innovation and re-invention of traditional Chinese painting, which stresses the importance of the three "perfections" - perfection in painting, calligraphy and seal-carving - required of the artist.

In 2008, for example, he produced a book of original artworks he made by combining digital pictures of his Chinese calligraphy and seal carvings with images from his art collection of figurines and antiques, which surprised many, including his peers.

"I always feel we shouldn't do Chinese painting the way the old Chinese masters did years ago without change," he says.

As space is limited at Fullerton Hotel, he says the paintings for his current exhibition will have to take turns to be displayed during the 11-day show.

Only two large works, both measuring 219cm by 110cm and with a price tag of $100,000 each, will be displayed throughout the exhibition.

He says: "I did the two pieces especially for the current solo exhibition. The first, titled Shui Yue Xiang Wang, still shows some kind of form in the two fishes. The other, titled Da Xiang Wu Xing, shows patches of ink in red and blue and are completely formless."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'See the poetic light'. Print Edition | Subscribe