In The Studio: Guo-Liang Tan

  • Lightness and suspension feature strongly in Guo-Liang Tan’s ongoing body of work encompassing paintings and installations (or, paintings as objects). Compositing traces and creating imprints on a translucent aeronautical fabric, Tan explores how these works could frame and orientate our sense of time, body and memory. We popped by Tan's studio to find out more about his processes and thoughts behind his work. 

  • Ota Fine Arts (O): One of the most distinctive characteristics of your work is the materials or fabrics that you use, could you share how this shapes your process?


    Guo-Liang Tan (G): I work with different types of fabric. They act as surfaces for me to evoke a sense of touch and to stage a feeling of both intimacy and distance. For the painting ground, I use an aeronautical fabric, which is often used by hobbyists to make model planes or boats. One of its characteristics that I’m really drawn to is how it is somewhat water resistant and a lot of the paint that I put onto the surface would eventually be washed off. I like the idea of working not with very strong painterly gestures but from the traces and the marks that’s left behind.

  • "It’s really important that when I’m painting, there are different levels of intent."


    - Guo-Liang Tan

  • Installation view: "Strange Forms of Life", STPI Gallery, Singapore, 2020 / Image courtesy of STPI - Creative Workshop & Gallery, Singapore]
  • O: In your work, although figurative elements are decidedly absent, there is subtle evocation of a presence. How do you approach this balance between the tangible and the abstract?


    G: I try to be as indirect as I can in my work. It is not easy to work abstractly in the world that often demands something clear and concrete. But I feel there's a place for some ambiguity. For me, painting always begins from the outside because I see it as a thing in the world. It might move inwards when we engage with a painting because we invest our thoughts and our emotions. But ultimately, it always returns to itself. I think this space between the work and artists and the viewer is important because this is where we can adjust and attune ourselves.



    O: What have you been exploring of late?


    G: More recently, I've been thinking about paintings as multiple objects existing in space. I like the idea of extending the space of painting beyond its frame. I try to think of paintings as a kind of body, and I use my own body to respond to the paintings as objects. This means I get to think about composition not just pictorially but also spatially. I have always been interested in the spaces between things and so it feels like a natural step to think of paintings more as markers in space.

  • "For me, suspension is neither rising nor falling, but floating. It is a state of equilibrium of different forces at play. It is a stillness that is full of life."


    - Guo-Liang Tan

  • About the artist

    Guo-Liang Tan (b. 1980, Singapore) completed his BA in Fine Art & Critical Studies at Goldsmiths College, London and his MFA at Glasgow School of Art. He is a recipient of Singapore National Arts Council Scholarship, the Antje und Jürgen Conzelmann Preis for painting. Solo exhibitions include “Ghost Screen”, Ota Fine Arts, Singapore (2017) and “Play Dead”, Space Cottonseed, Singapore (2012). Most recently he presented a large-scale installation piece, “Arrive, Arrive” (2021) at the Padang Atrium of National Gallery Singapore. Notable group exhibitions include “Reformations: Painting in Post 2000 Singapore Art”, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2019), “ELEVATIONS LAOS | EXHIBITION”, i:cat gallery, Laos (2018), “A Different Way of Painting: A Different Way of Thinking About Painting?” Langgeng Art Foundation, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2017) and “ The Trouble With Painting Today”, Pump House Gallery, London (2014).

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