Qin Tan: A Way Out

Qin Tan

Artwork’s Title: A Way Out

Materials Used: Acrylic and Oil on Canvas

Studio Based: Hoboken, New Jersey. USA

Qin Tan, A Way Out, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 62 x 62 inches, 2020

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Once I have a narrative or idea in mind, I almost always start a piece by first sketching out how I would like to illustrate it and lay it out. Often, I go through the process of creating many many variations of the sketch in order to try different things and find the best one. Funnily enough, sometimes the initial sketch ultimately ends up being “the one”. Other times, the original thought behind the piece is all but completely abandoned and reconstructed by the conclusion of the sketch process. I have not always done things this way, but it has worked out well for me with my current series of paintings and is something that I have enjoyed immensely. The sketching allows me to plan out and play with the motifs, color schemes, and methods of exploration that I want to employ. In this way, my thoughts on the piece itself and how I will paint it go through an evolution of sorts throughout the multiple sketch iterations, occasionally even digressing into a new idea altogether. I like to think of the picture that I am creating as a scene in a film or short essay that has yet to written—something that is very dynamic with a natural fluidity to it that deserves to be thoroughly contemplated and explored, even prior to putting down the first brush stroke. I am always searching for the most ‘telling’ picture.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

What it means to be human

How did you come up with this new painting idea of “A Way Out” ? Is there any story behind this work?

A Way Out was a piece that I began in April of 2020 during the initial height of the pandemic. Even though the original idea was not particularly quarantine-related, I think the quarantine experience absolutely informed the way the image played out. In this piece, I sought to depict an exhausted shovel that is trying to dig a hole out of the reality it is situated in. The shovel is an object which is given an anthropomorphized sense of being, desire, and struggle. It expresses an insatiable hunger to reveal another layer underneath the interface of its reality, as the blue skies, green grass, and perfect weather are not enough to satisfy its soul.

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

Some that come to mind are mythology and religious narratives. I really enjoy reading and learning about how different ancient civilizations described the creation of the world—how they abstract the universe and man’s relationship to this universe. These abstractions carry through all the way to present day in the form of narratives that I feel modern humans are often blind to. The mythological symbolism that was created back then is still prevalent today and deeply integrated into our conscious experiences. In the characters or narratives that I create, I try to reveal the relationship of these modern icons to their distant relatives from the past.
A subject area that I also find fascinating and often engage with in my art practice is the study of contemporary theories in physics. It is somewhat hard to keep up with because the material is often dense and technical. I try to find physicists and subject matter experts who are not only informed enough to have a solid understanding of the information or theories themselves, but who are also gifted with the ability to distill said knowledge and explain it in simpler, but still accurate, terms that can be understood and digested by non-physicists. I believe it is important that I stay aware of contemporary data and empirically driven theories that are being tested and discovered in the present day so that I can continue to update my perception of the world as well as the understanding of my experiences within the world. Like mythology, these theories also serve as materials that contribute to the narratives which I create.

Large or small scale canvases dilemma; are there any kind of standards that drive you to decide which surface length is better fitted for your final painting visualisations?

It is difficult to put into words what happens internally that sways or pulls me towards choosing a particular size, shape, or surface for something that I am visualizing. I almost feel as though certain images and ideas—they simply call for a larger space, they command it. Other times, ideas will whisper to me and want to be kept in a quaint, relatively compact form. I have always had an inclination towards bigger paintings; engaging with a painting that demands a larger physical presence never fails to excite me. However, I have also realized that there are images that insist on being small. The small pieces demand just as much attention, oftentimes requiring even higher levels of focus and precision to arrive at their most ideal final forms. So I suppose in a way, I am not the one who dictates the size of the pieces—the images and ideas themselves do.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

I would love to have some of my pieces shown in temples, churches, or other religious sanctuaries. I am a very spiritual person despite not having any specific religious affiliations, and I believe that my pieces are as well.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I have always loved the art installations created by James Turell, he remains one of my favorites artists ever since I was young. The beautiful paintings of Matthew Wong take my breath away and the works of David Byrd fascinate me deeply.
Recently, I havee been looking at the paintings of Maja Ruznic and her husband, Josh Hagler. Even though their approach to painting differs greatly from mine, I think that the way they let their images come in and out of abstraction is incredible.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

My studio is located in Hoboken, New Jersey, on the west side of Manhattan. The building that I am in is a historic leather factory, with the oldest part of its architecture apparently dating back to the Civil War. So, sometimes just being in the building itself is its own trip. I happily share a floor with a few other artists under PROJECT STUDIOS, LLC.

What do your mum and dad think about your art?

They have always been quite supportive of my art practice, so I think they both truly enjoy my paintings and sharing in my excitement as a progressing young artist. Sometimes they have a difficult time understanding what I am trying to express in my work, as they are always asking me ‘What does it mean?’. And, oof, that is sometimes a difficult question to answer.

Additional Images

Qin Tan, To Leave a Mark, Acrylic on Canvas, 18 x 24 inches, 2021
Qin Tan, Let’s Connect, Exhibition View, Courtesy of the Marian Cramer Projects, 2021
Qin Tan, Hide and Seek, Acrylic on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2020
Qin Tan, Midnight Picnic, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2021
Qin Tan, Let’s Connect, Exhibition View, Courtesy of the Marian Cramer Projects, 2021



All images courtesy of the artist & Marian Cramer Projects

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