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1 & 3 Flat Things

Arcylic on aeronautical fabric, tables
Dimensions variable
Images: courtesy of NTU ADM Gallery

In 1 & 3 Flat Things, Guo-Liang Tan broaches and tests new territory in his practice as a painter. Literally ‘flattening’ the artistic process and object, Tan painted these four new paintings horizontally, displaying them on individual stands. The cherished and considered objects of creativity are levelled, their relationship, prominence, and orientation to the spectator shifting completely. One would more likely view these paintings as a marketgoer would scrutinize the day’s produce, or a coroner would examine a body. That is not to say that Tan’s new vantage point on painting are lifeless or quotidian, nor that these qualities are necessarily negative. As in previous works, the ease of Tan’s paintings belies experimental slippages and frustrations. 1 & 3 also fortifies Tan’s artistic techniques and interest in thinking of painting as a composition across parts. Here, four fragments are conceptualized as a loose collective. Unity does not, however, equate to boring homogeneity in Tan’s hand. Instead, something is always just slightly out of place, on the precipice of categorical understanding. Here, that off-centre piece is a smaller painting, distinguishable from its three larger counterparts: the former simultaneously associated with yet cleaved apart from the latter by the title’s conjunction. The oddball of the bunch is, nonetheless, kindred through a subtle chromatic gradient of blue, brown, and orange that flows through Tan’s paintings. For him, “colour is like glue,” capable of unctuously infusing and congealing disparate elements in the same spread. Tan wields similar breadth when experimenting with the painting’s surface. Where previously greater concern was paid to the entirety of the surface and its all-over-ness (for instance, mark-making that saturated the surface and reached to the edges of the canvas), in this series Tan demonstrates considerably less possessiveness. Bruises flower on otherwise bare canvases, unabashed in their new-found exposure.

Text by Wong Bing Hao