TAN KENT KEONG
Tan Kent Keong born in 1979 in the state of Kedah, Malaysia, is an artist known for his profound emotional expression and unique style. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Graduate Institute of Fine Arts at National Taiwan University of Arts in 2013, and since then, his art has gained acclaim for its rich content and distinctive style.
Tan Kent Keong’s life and artistic career are marked by a quest for belonging and a deep sense of nostalgia. He frequently changes his place of residence, and this ever-changing life experience profoundly influences his artistic practice, infusing it with a sense of nostalgia. Adapting to different environments while bidding farewell to previous residences, he channels these emotions into his art.
In 2014, Tan Kent Keong made a significant decision to leave the bustling life of Taipei and transition to the rural setting of Fugang, Taiwan. This dramatic shift in his living environment represents his lonely venture into the unknown, contrasting sharply with his previous urban lifestyle. In the tranquility of the countryside, Tan Kent Keong began to reflect on the concept of the “box,” recognizing its prevalent existence in urban life.
Since 2008, Tan Kent Keong’s “Toy” series of works takes a nostalgic look back at childhood, exploring fundamental life questions such as “Who am I?” and “What kind of person am I?” His consciousness seems to be caught in an eternal vortex of disappearance yet repeated viewing, often needing to break down the walls of time to revisit past scenes and repeatedly peruse ordinary moments in life. In the midst of this, he asks himself what he can do. He deeply understands that the essence of creation always returns to his own experiences and insights into life, which he conveys through the portrayal of everyday objects.
His “Floral” series of works goes beyond the mere depiction of objects; it symbolizes these objects as representations of his inner emotional state, vividly conveying his sense of solitude. This “solitude” isn’t synonymous with “loneliness or emptiness”; rather, it allows him to find tranquility in the depths of his soul.
He references a line from the poem of Gong Zizhen, a Qing Dynasty philosopher: “Falling flowers are not heartless, they become spring mud to protect the flowers.” This line metaphorically captures his decision to resign from an official position and return to his hometown. Tan Kent Keong understands that, like falling flowers, his choices, while entailing sacrifices, are not without meaning; instead, they nurture hope for the future. His “Floral” series doesn’t merely depict individual flowers; instead, it encapsulates the various stages, from budding to blooming to withering, using techniques of transformation, haziness, speed, and montage to convey the multiple facets of flowers, mirroring his own experiences of life’s ups and downs, all the while carrying a sense of hope for rebirth.
In essence, Tan Kent Keong’s art not only conveys personal emotions and memories but also explores broader themes such as hometown, life’s narrative, and pivotal moments. His creative speed and acute observations infuse his works with vitality and depth, making him a prominent figure in the world of contemporary art.