Solo Exhibition by Siund Tan
18 Oct - 1 Nov 2014
SOMETIME: SIUND TIME
Emerging contemporary artist Tan Hong Shiun or better known as Siund Tan, was born in 1981 and hails from Alor Setar, Kedah. He completed his advance diploma in graphic design from a local art institution in 2003 and furthered his studies in graphic design at Perth’s Curtin University, Australia. For the first few years while working in an advertising agency in KL after graduating in 2004, Siund tried to secure assignments for illustration work on the side but opportunities were limited. Having grown tired with the hectic pace and relentless pressures of the commercial art and advertising world, Siund decided to explore his personal interests and produced a handful of paintings with his wife as model playing multiple characters in various imaginary settings. Those paintings were well received when he exhibited them in group exhibitions at a few private galleries in the capital. He then participated in the privately organized but hugely popular Malaysia’s Emerging Artist (MEA) competition and emerged the winner in 2012. Having being bestowed that honour, Siund felt the responsibility to pursue his artistic calling fulltime and left his day job. The exhibition entitled ‘SOMETIME…’ at G13 gallery is his inaugural solo showcase of new works.
The distinctive aspect of Siund’s works is his unique approach and style which is not easily characterized or attributed to any local artists or art schools. Though some faint similarities can be drawn to the works of contemporary painter Mark Ryden among significant others, it must be stated that Siund’s works are in actuality, a very sophisticated amalgamation of disparate eastern and western influences to convey positive energies. Like numerous young painters working in the local art scene today, Siund was exposed to the many popular contemporary illustrators, designers and graphic novel artists working under various terms like pop surrealism, fantastic or magic realism etc during his college years. However, Siund claims to draw heavily from the images and illustrations found on commercial packaging, posters and covers of products reminiscent of Old Shanghai or other bygone eras which are prized today as pop culture collectibles. Even calendars depicting Hindu gods and goddesses are a great source of visual inspiration to the upcoming artist.
The sepia-tinged and soft colours used in those commercial packaging, products or calendars with their models (usually female) looking forlorn or full of youthful vigour in various poses while engaged in a range of indoor or outdoor activities are ingeniously applied by Siund to produce that ‘classic timeless’ feel to his contemporary-conceived settings. The effects of his chosen medium too must be credited for the success in evoking a strange nostalgia for events that never took place or memories that were never real.
Though Siund had dabble with oil painting sporadically since his college days, he began to explore in earnest this slow drying medium after considering the superior qualities it has brought to his paintings. Another reason given by Siund is that he wished to engage a medium that is more elementary and traditional in contrast to all the modern technical gadgetry surrounding him in the course of his work or in his daily life, so as to strike a balance of sorts.
His treatment of the human form in his paintings and the few portraits for this exhibition is interesting. Adopted from his study of the works and techniques of the late renaissance or Mannerist painters, the slightly perceptible distortion of proportion of his figures are purposefully done to produce an unreal-like quality to the whole scenario which is akin to the intentions of Mannerists painters who created in opposition to the logical, rigidly proportionate figures and harmoniously balanced compositions that are the hallmarks of High Renaissance art.
Content wise, his paintings are constructed from bits and pieces of information, especially the positive ones from conversations with family, friends and other sources of references which are processed and stitched together to create a cohesive narrative, then sketched out before transferring them unto the canvases. The final version usually differs from its original conception.
Siund has said that his paintings are like ‘soft spots’ or outlets for relief from the daily hustle and bustle. Indeed, his ‘urban fantasy’-like paintings offers an escape, especially back to the ‘less complicate’ world of childhood where huge parts of our lives are spent exploring places of wonder, playing games and imitating characters, both real and imaginary. However, Siund does infuse realism into his works, which are not populated by fantastic creatures or bizarre situations, rather the paintings are composed of well thought-out placement of objects and symbols, with each denoting a positive idea or energy gleaned from both eastern and western cultural or spiritual beliefs. In some of the paintings, the simultaneous coalescence or unfolding of past, present and future events in a well executed visual choreography also displays, in a tasteful manner the complex multiplicity of Siund’s thoughts and ideas.
‘SOMETIME…’ is a modest but convincing announcement of a new comer whose dedication to his craft, proficient use of symbolism and cerebral approach marks him far ahead in a scene saturated by unimaginative imitators and clumsy aestheticians who continue to mine petty sentiments, inconsequential memories or shamelessly mime their tutors’ or idols’ art styles and approaches.
By Tan Seihon