Qin Tan was born and raised in Beijing, China and is currently based in New Jersey, USA. Tan’s work is often introspective, exploring internal dialogues and methods of expression that are observant of what it means to be human in the present day. The subjects of her paintings range from surreal landscapes to symbolic stick man figures that occasionally morph into different objects and tools. They reflect and capture life in its most pure and primordial form—blue skies, green grass and a conscious observer that is looking for answers and meaning.
In 2015, she graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work has most recently been exhibited at 42 Art Space (Beijing), JPS Gallery (Hongkong), AOUT Gallery (Beirut), Marian Cramer Arts Projects (Amsterdam), COCA (Seattle), Sapienza University (Rome), Towson University (Maryland), SACI (Florence), amongst others. She has received awards and residencies from Artist Trust, The Tacoma Artist Initiative Program, Delaware Contemporary, Vermont Studio Center, and Wassaic Project.
"This body of work is an introspective exploration of internal dialogues and methods of expression that reflect on what it means to be human in the present day. The artist incorporates cues from visual languages embedded within today's popular culture, digital landscapes, and computer games to capture new methods of expression that intertwine the virtual and physical realities experienced by human beings of our era. The narratives of these paintings often revolve around symbolic stick men figures or anthropomorphic tools that explore surreal spaces of nature. These figures can be observed with dramaticized teeth and body proportions, evoking the same exaggerated sense of self expression that is conveyed by emojis through modern electronic messages. Subjects are characterized by their accentuated and contorted physical forms, revealing their psychological state of being and yearnings. Being heavy with texture, yet flat in color, the artist enjoys playing with contrasting creative decisions to imbue these figures with personalities that give them a distinct sense of incongruity as well as a human-like sense of conflicted existence. The artist further juxtaposes the frame through the use of different levels of perceptual reality in the background and other parts of the picture — some contain realistic renderings, while others are manipulated into mere geometric abstractions. The artist's work ultimately seeks to depict the conflicting sense of truth from her own personal experiences of a physical reality that is heavily augmented by the virtual aspects of the digital world she is enveloped in."
Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.
I was born in Beijing and moved to the United States with my family when I was a teenager. As a child, I was classically trained in painting, however my art practice has since gone through many phases and evolutions, to include video art, installations, and of course the body of work that I am currently creating.
What kind of work are you currently making?
I’m currently making a series of larger paintings (60"x60" to 80"x80") to explore portraying the main characters of the pieces in life-size proportions — I'm eager to experiment with giving them an even greater sense of exaggerated expression and personality.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I spend a fair amount of time simply studying the pieces I’m working on — I'll often zone in on a specific aspect or detail of the painting and contemplate deeply on how I could improve it, change it, or go about portraying it in a completely different way. I’m the type of the person who gets lost in my own thoughts and my studio is sort of my safe haven from the chaotic, noisy, fast-paced exterior world — it's a space that allows me to really just ponder quietly in peace and isolation. In a way, I feel as though the particulars of the physical space itself aren't even that important; this is because I find that I go idea-surfing within my own head so often that I am seemingly traveling through my thoughts more so than I am operating within the physical confines of my studio space. Miraculously, sometimes these thoughts, internal explorations, and introspections eventually even make their way out onto the canvas!
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
Most recently, I’ve been reading Donald Hoffman's The Case Against Reality — it entails his theories on the relationship between visual perception and evolutionary biology. The book discusses how evolution has influenced the human perception of the exterior reality we are situated in. His argument is that the human perception of reality is in fact nothing like actual reality; he suggests the possibility that our perception of the world is more so a kind of biological interface that we've come to adapt through evolution which allows for increased human survivability. It’s a fascinating read and extremely interesting to see how various scientific data points and experiments support his argument.
Where can we find more of your work?
I have an upcoming solo-exhibition at 42 Art Space, a gallery in Beijing, which will showcase my most recent body of work. Beijing is unfortunately currently experiencing some COVID related difficulties that are affecting business' ability to operate, so stay tuned for official exhibition dates! A rough estimation for the exhibition's opening would be sometime within the next one to two months.