TAN KENT KEONG
"IF WE LIVE IN THE PURSUIT OF REAL DAYS, WE MUST CONSTANTLY BREAK THE INHERENT THINKING, DISPEL THE MESSAGE OF THE SURROUNDING, AND QUESTION OUR OWN AESTHETICS, VALUES, AND VIEWS."
Tan Kent Keong was born in 1979, in Kedah, Malaysia. He was awarded a scholarship to the National Taiwan University of Arts in Taipei, and this is where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (2008) and Master of Fine Arts (2013).
After graduating in 2008, Tan Kent Keong has dedicated his life as an artist for nearly 11 years. Kent Keong Tan regards the canvas as a theater and regards himself as a director, arranging all the scenes in the painting: light, plot, character and splicing...Hence, recording the scenes of everyday life. In them, one can feel an intense yearning imbued-nostalgia as well as a relentless search for endless questions and full of meaning in an arid and indifferent world lacking answers. Impacting each environment visually and providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions through his style as a search mode. Perhaps this is why films are best seen in a crowded theater, where the infectiousness of cathartic emotion can have full play.
Tan Kent Keong's work has been exhibited in numerous solo expositions and group shows in Taiwan, Singapore, China, Turkey, and Japan. And has numerous awards and recognitions to go along with it.
Kent's art shows us that there is a magnificent stillness within the chaos; which therefore brings out an indomitable solitude. But it is a necessary solitude, a solitude which squeezes every cell of your being to show you a simple truth. Through his art, Kent takes us on a journey where he exposes us to different emotions ... from joy to fear, with the power for rebirth and death. His art simply shows us a juxtaposition of life. A life that despite the chaos, the stillness within can still be found.
Q. Tell us a little what was your childhood like?
A. As a child, I showed more interest and fascination in sitting alone in the corner next to the window, while paying attention to the changes in the light and shadow of the sun on the wall than playing with my neighbors, and friends. And often asked myself the same questions" Who am I?" "Why can't I remember anything before age five, is it that when I was 5 years old, another person was living in my body?"
Q. Do you remember the first piece of art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I don't remember when I started painting. I often ask myself what is art? What is creativity? What is life? Life, experience and memory are like a line. I follow the line and go back, go back and talk to myself and get to know each other (the me now and the me back then). What shaped our journey, I think it is life, my creation is like a living place, I live alone, often after work, throwing work clothes on the ground, messy scattered paint pots on the studio floor, brushes, knives, expired newspapers... Every once in a while, I start to sort them out.
Q. Why did you decide to become an artist?
A. When I was ten, I decided to become an artist, but I never knew how to be an artist. More precisely, how oneself can transform into its own profession? And this always obsessed me. Because the way I see it, is a sort of finishing constantly the stages of one’s life. Art is like a movie, and life is a mean of constant information which brings you loads of inspiration. I need art to know every life, a life that must be constantly destroyed and reinterpreted. This is a dream of mine, but I never know where the end is.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career?
A. My works have been exhibited in my country and abroad; however, every time I visit a foreign exhibition, I will visit local artists' studios to see their working environment and discuss with them. Life and creation. Sharing is my segmented joy and unforgettable daily memories in my artistic career.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. My mother is the one who has the most influence on me. In my memory, my mother is an easygoing, strong housewife. She always bears the hardships of life and does not blame anyone. I remember when I was young, my mother often said to me: The value of life is not measured by the weight that oneself can carry. but rather the contrary, letting go.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Success for me is to leave the crowd, staying away from socialization, and become an independent thinker, and living in it.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. At times it can get lonely, but I often choose to ignore them completely because I am aware, I soon will smash such moments into frames from the countless pieces of life and see them hang on the wall from where I will watch them afterward quietly.
The theme of painting begins with some of my feelings in life; the derivation and enlargement of some of these feelings; most of them are related to loneliness. When I am alone, I talk a lot with myself, so that I can walk around the prosperous fragments of my past, free will arrangements; cut or add a resounding voice in my ear, into the image interspersed among them.
Q. What does your work aim to express?
A. My work is connected to each other, they are linked as a TV series. When I put my work in an exhibition space, it creates an atmosphere, where stories can be felt, through the creative discourse as the story is told. An atmosphere where the story offsets the possibilities that the painting itself can convey, opening consciousness through images rather than staying in the message.
In my paintings, I arranged hypothetical situations related to the theme of everyday life. I set the canvas as a place where the theater took place. As a director, I arranged the characters in the plot, turning the mirror, lighting, and editing. Every piece in the exhibition begins with what happens in everyday life. This includes my conversations with my dog, stories I have chatted with people, books, magazines, news, music, movies, and videos from the Internet, and then the selection process.
Finally, I try to simulate a series of conversations that I saw in my life; echoed with my heart, and the two completed the daily situation to achieve the integrity of self-return.
Q. Apart from making art, what do you love doing?
A. I enjoy quietness, cooking, playing guitar, watching movies, riding a locomotive into the forest.
Q. What advice would you give to the next art-generation?
A. Here, I want to emphasize an era, questioning the real construction, the choice of history, the era of image reconstruction, what can we believe?
If we live in the pursuit of real days, we must constantly break the inherent thinking, dispel the message of the surrounding, and question our own aesthetics, values, and views.