Growing up in the diversity of Southeast Asia and now living on Staten Island, Tattoo Tan’s quest to express his Chinese roots became entwined in a western aesthetic. Blending traditional with contemporary, organic with synthetic and male with female in luminous, often sparkling works on paper, canvas, and stitched textiles, Tan creates sensuous visceral textures that oscillate between liquid and solid.
Combining iridescent paint, charcoal, string and glitter with the viscosity of oil, acrylic paint, resin and galkyd medium, Tan has developed “cultural hybrids” of layering, scraping away paint and rebuilding in a process he refers to as “Tanah Air, translated as soil and water, through which the artist cultivates his own voice and identity by augmenting old habits and advancing new ones.” An example of Tan’s improvisational, Zen-like approach includes soaking a canvas with alcohol followed by watercolor-like applications of oils and other media. Floating through many of Tan’s works is the lotus leaf, “which symbolizes grace and spirituality”. In several paintings, Tan invites viewers to hover above abstracted ponds rich with calligraphic gestures, traditional Chinese patterns and Malaysian vegetation. He frequently articulates his passion for relationships in nature with multiple canvases that interact with each other as well as with the viewer. Works incorporating found patches of fabrics, threads and strings extend his investigations of new forms, “connected to, yet unbound by cultural traditions.” Whether gentle, energetic or explosive, Tan’s works resonate with profound emotions, inspiring perpetual contemplation.