SIYUAN TAN: Chug, Chug
|When||19 Jun 2021 - 10 Jul 2021|
174 Roebling St.,1L
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Arts Salon: A conversation between artist and curator – July 8th, 2021, 6-9 pm
LATITUDE Gallery is pleased to announce “Chug Chug”, the latest solo exhibition for artist Tan Siyuan, in collaboration with Tutu Gallery. As a dual presentation across two sites in New York, the first part of the show opens at LATITUDE Gallery from June 19 to July 10. The second part will continue at Tutu Gallery, opening on July 10. This joint presentation marks the artist’s second solo exhibition in New York, and will feature more than twenty works that include installation, sculptures, paintings, and watercolors. The exhibition is curated by Eva Yisu Ren.
Over the centuries, news, the ubiquitous form of information that society as a whole could consume simultaneously, functions as a tool to mold and normalize people’s identity within a society. Before recent technological advancements, traditional news media, dominated by elitist authorities, often served to maintain the hierarchical social status quo. The limited information that the masses possessed somewhat dismantled the possibility of making sense of current social events and maturing one’s ability of critical thinking, also, in a great context, turned the formulation of history into a dismembered process. Under the rapid media expansion in the digital age, the channels of obtaining news have become more diverse than ever. The instant, massive, and abundant information has led to a “surplus” of news information. In the meantime, the subsequent fake news, fragmented news, and overly sensational reports have also emerged one after another, creating varied social narratives that lure people into believing in them. As a result, this current circumstance pushes the anxiety of making sense of things to grow even worse and further aggravates the existing social apathy among people.
Today, any news event, even a tragedy, can be summarized in a few declarative sentences, stripping away the emotions and the poignance of what has happened. Thus, as the audience, we often forget that the accumulating numbers that we see on our screens are actually tied to individual victims with an equal number of names. Hoping to quest and form a “Neo-heroism” within the truth, Tan Siyuan’s works confront the apathetic amnesia within this fast-paced age of spin that we live in. The news is constantly being produced, and prevailing social events are continually being archived into historical records. Still, while the viewers may forget about particular cases, the scars will always remain. By reconstructing historical texts and correlating iconic contemporary issues, the two themes of Tan’s artworks, warm and cold, present a kaleidoscopic contradiction that reflects the blurring boundaries between historical fact and personal emotions. Instead of solely unveiling one perspective in the depicted dreadful social events, the artist reveals an empathic tenderness in the works, offering a deeper layer to his artistic investigation. By discovering these hybrid, multi-dimensional narratives, the artist escorts the viewer into a visual matrix where both conspicuous and hidden clues reach for truths behind historical events and examine the relationship between objective observation and subjective empathy.
Three sculptures in the exhibition, ‘Dragon Bone’, ‘A Day’, and ‘Another Day’, take a broad and deep view of the history of Chinese migrant workers behind the construction of the Pacific Railroad in the United States. To vitalize coast-to-coast travel during the Westward Expansion, the construction of the Pacific Railroad began in 1863, after President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act a year earlier. Up until the completion of the railroad, approximately 14,000 Chinese workers were involved with the project, but only a few left their names. Using the vital symbolism of railway tracks among these sculptures, the artist offers his own interpretation of the role that the Chinese American played in the country’s infrastructure, in the meanwhile, he aims to provide an overview of the history of Chinese migrant workers in the U.S, unveiling this nearly forgotten history. Tan’s works not only gaze at the fragmented news, the authoritarian nature of history creation, and the politics of social identity but also aim to locate any untouched sphere where new conversations can be held. By applying a bright and vivid palette to highlight unknown histories and lingering issues, the artist constructs a contradictory dialogue that sparks tension and energy.
Created during the COVID-19 lockdown, Tan’s air brush paintings ‘Cause that stone faced French woman ain’t gonna save us’ and ‘Day and Night’ bring back the memories of that strange time of emergency and collective uncertainty. The stark contrast be-tween widespread revolutionary sentiments kindled by social events and our con-strained everyday life under the pandemic echo our inevitable dislocation with reality.
The juxtaposition of surreal humor and compassion in Tan’s works is his way of captur-ing the era we live in. Instead of being a mere observer from a distance, Tan expresses his understanding of society through constant effort to coexist with his surroundings. Quote from the artist, “I prefer being ‘in between’, and present both sides in my works, while leaving the audience to comment on the good or bad.”
Tan’s watercolor works follow the artist’s personal stories, revealing his direct and intimate experiences with life and death. Implementing a luminous palette and emotive brushwork, Tan outlines the boundaries between yin and yang, juxtaposing with the disparity between reality and sensation while constructing a complex yet prolific aspiration.
The protean dichotomy of “cold and warm” summarizes the artist’s poignant yet wondrous expression and his process of deconstructing news events and rebuilding the public sphere for discussion — not just insinuating the era but sympathizing with each person involved. As the exhibition title “Chug, Chug” suggests, we have no way of knowing where the train is going. No matter whether one is on the train or not, something has already happened. In this post-truth age of spin, how are we making sense of things without apathy and distance? Whether there is a way for us to cap-ture and employ some of our deep-down compassion to fill in this cruel and empty world?
Sometimes, you thought I was just joking. But actually, we are talking about something sad.
Siyuan Tan (b. 1984, Fuxin, Liaoning Province, China) earned his B.F.A. in Sculpture from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, Shenyang, China and M.F.A. in Sculpture from Savannah College of Art and Design. Now he works as an artist in New York. Tan previously worked at ID3 Group as Sculpture Studio Manager, and as a Q Studio Clay Modeler in Ford Motor Company. Various working experiences have exposed him to a variety of materials for art and industrial fabrication, which thus led to his usage of media like spray paint in his paintings and sculptures. Tan has participated in group exhibitions internationally including Beijing, China; London, U.K.; Rome, Italy; Landshut, Germany; Aveiro, Portugal; New York and Atlanta, U.S.A. Recent exhibitions include Trenton Museum, New Jersey; Marietta Cobb Museum of Art, Atlanta; Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis (2020); Fou Gallery, New York (2019); 4th Wall Power, Time Museum, Beijing (2019); KUNST IM DIALOGUE / Migration, Stichting White Cube Global Village, Landshut, Germany (2018); SABA IV, Delaware Contemporary Museum, Wilming-ton (2018) and Tan Siyuan: How Much I Love You, Trios Gallery, Atlanta (2017).
Eva Yisu Ren is an independent curator, writer, and designer based in New York. Currently, she is working at Chambers Fine Art Gallery. She received a Master of Arts in Visual Arts Administration at New York University in 2020, and a Bachelor of Arts in both Fine Art / Contemporary Art Theory and Philosophy from the University of California, Irvine, in 2018. She has work experiences both from for-profit and nonprofit sectors of the art industry, including Christie’s, Heritage, The Armory Show, TEFAF New York, Chart Gallery, The FLAG Art Foundation, and the National Museum of China. Before her art world journey, she worked in the Blockchain Industry and Venture Capital and was responsible for Marketing Strategy and Public Relations. Recently, she co-founded a curatorial project, ONBD, which dedicates to NFT based art.
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Image courtesy of the event organizer.