The Resonance of Forms

Solo Exhibition By Dennis Chan

22 June - 15 July 2012


Dennis Chan’s foray into the local visual arts scene was unexpected though not out of the ordinary. In his profession, he sees art and meets with artists and collectors all the time.  When he finally picked up the courage to showcase his paintings, it was well regarded that it gave him the needed confidence to produce enough works for a solo exhibition. The show was well received, with many works snapped up by collectors. Dennis Chan has not looked back ever since.

So far, this is his fourth solo, his second to be hosted by Kenny Teng, founder of Art Village, at his newly established and expanded gallery, G13.

From the onset, Dennis harbors no desire to become a full time painter nor did he have in mind, epics or grand themes to be committed on paper or canvas. It was just out of plain curiosity and sheer boredom that he began to doodle and drew pictures. He started with what many of us would automatically or instinctively turn to for inspiration, nature. Rolling mountains and hills, scenic spots, waterfalls, the flora and fauna, even craft objects are depicted in simple and stylized form. These subject matters gave him much pleasure and delight that he decided to pursue them seriously and in a visual language that is entirely his own.  It helps too that he has supportive artist friends in the painter Marvin Chan and self-taught sculptor, Vong Nyam Chee@ Cheev. Always seeking to improve his craft, Dennis is not timid to seek advice or critique from veteran painters, including the caustic Jolly Koh, among significant others.

Ananda K Coomaraswamy wrote in ‘What Is The Use Of Art, Anyway?’[1] that the common illusion or fallacy about art and culture is that it is assumed that something artistic must be produced by the hands of a special kind of person, a so-called genius even. He goes on to postulate that any person who is ‘not a mere idler or parasite is necessarily some kind of special artist, skilled and well contented in making or arranging of some one thing or another according to his constitution or training’.

And Dennis is that ‘any person’ who is that ‘necessarily some kind of special artist’, content to see that things are well made, especially his paintings, ‘according to his constitution…’

An aspect of his works that is discernable, especially to art lovers and even fellow painters are the treatment of the surface of each painting no matter what subject is depicted, which Dennis lavishes much attention and energy. The qualities of his paintings are heightened with the drips, crackle, stain and other visual effects. Previous works saw the effects coupled with generous washes of gold paint that glimmers slightly at just the right angle, especially under dimmed lighting. Furthermore, his sensitive use of colors and tones also brings out an atmospheric quietude, evoking nostalgic longings or affects the moods in soothing and pleasing ways while the more abstract pieces are pure burst of energy that celebrates life in its myriad transience.

Given the technical limitations as a self taught painter, Dennis has achieved admirably in this respect. In fact, he had also discovered or picked up a few ‘trade secrets’ from his years of experiments with colors, textures and materials.

Though the subject matters are unassuming, images painted from imagination or memory, there is undeniably an air of mystery to each of the Zen-like landscapes and forms. They are reminiscent of the landscapes of traditional Chinese ink or brush paintings; well balanced, tastefully composed and modest in detail but abundant, in its nominal visual suggestions and nuances, of the philosophy or principles that informs its construction or arrangement.

In the case of Dennis Chan however, there are no high-falutin ideas behind his works. They are conceived and arrived at naturally from experimentation of colors, textures and composition, a combination of intuition and intention, an uncomplicated but a fine sense of balance with an excellent feel for the subtle.

Robert Henri wrote in 1923 that ‘Art is simply a result of expression during right feeling. It’s a result of a grip on the fundamentals of nature, the spirit of life, the constructive force, the secret of growth, a real understanding of the relative importance of things, order, balance. Any material will do. After all, the object is not to make art, but to be in the wonderful state which makes art inevitable.’[2]

This current showcase of new paintings offers further exploration of forms and the picturesque via close up views of mineral-like surfaces, highlighting the patterns, formations and textures in detail and imaginary, sentimental-like landscapes. Akin to the ‘rough’ and ‘coarse’ qualities of Zen-inspired earthenware, it has the power to bring about a ‘wonderful state’, not through the ostentatious that obscures but through perceptions of the real in an intuitive way; a direct ‘expression during right feeling’.

Unhindered by academicism, trends or market forces, Dennis continues to experiment, explore and discover in his own way the resonance of forms, its textures as well as the magical and mysterious conveyed through majestic imaginary landscapes, seen in his mind’s eye in his journey of evolution as a painter.

 Tan Sei Hon

[1]  ‘Christian & Oriental Philosophy of Art.’ Dover Publications, 1956

[2] ‘The Art Spirit’, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984.

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