In remembrance of Tan Kian Por 陈建坡

Sok Leng
3 minute read

Tan Kian Por's Crashing Waves Billowing Clouds art exhibition hall.

Tan Kian Por 陈建坡 studied western painting and Chinese ink painting at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1968 to 1970. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion award in 2001 and passed away at age 70 in 2019. 
 
This art exhibtion "Crashing Waves, Billowing Clouds – A Tribute to Tan Kian Por" showcases his works in Chinese seal carving, calligraphy and Chinese ink painting.  

I was particularly drawn to his Chinese ink paintings particularly the Indian portraits and the “forgetting each other, the moon and water 水月忘相” works.

His Chinese ink portrait painting of an Indian man.

The Indian portraits were painted mainly in the 1990s.  At first glance, the portraits look like western charcoal painting but look again and you begin to marvel at the beautiful Chinese ink brush strokes that draw out the man’s face, especially the curls in the hair and the wrinkles at the eyes. 
 
In fact, the faint shadows of white and grey that make up the hair reminds you of the atmospheric feel of a misty mountain top in another Chinese ink painting.  The lines that make up the clothes are clean and deft.  The painting is sparsely coloured but the colours are bright and stand out strongly against the black Chinese ink lines. 
 
Accompanied by some calligraphy on the right of the painting, the Indian portrait series are mesmerizing.  They feel realistic and yet idyllic.  They feel harsh and yet comforting. 

I guess that is the beauty of Chinese ink painting, which the Singapore artist had skillfully brought out.  

Tan Kian Por's Chinese ink painting titled Forgetting Each Other The Moon and Water.

The “forgetting each other, the moon and water 水月忘相“ series were painted mainly in the 2010s.  I must admit, I do not know what “forgetting each other, the moon and water 水月忘相 ” means, but I love this series.
 
The narrator in the video that was playing in one corner of the exhibition hall mentioned that in this third period of Tan's art journey, the concept of semi-abstraction emerged in his paintings.
 
The semi-abstraction in the “forgetting each other, the moon and water 水月忘相“ series is to me, modern and contemporary.  The blue and red strokes are so bright they do not seem to belong in a Chinese ink painting. 

But because they are in a Chinese ink painting, where background is untouched, where brushstrokes take center stage, where blankness (liu bai) is paramount, the blue and red strokes stand out even more.

The end result is a painting that evokes feeling of happiness - the radiance from the colours, and calm - the restfulness from the composition.
 
It is a pity that I did not manage to see more of Tan Kian Por’s works in the past.  It is a sad reminder to me, that life is fragile.  Do not wait.  Catch the exhibtion this weekend.
 
“Crashing Waves, Billowing Clouds – A Tribute to Tan Kian Por 涛啸云涌 - 陈建坡遗作展” art exhibtion runs from 14 April to 5 May 2021 at the Lim Hak Tai Gallery, NAFA Campus, Singapore.

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