Photos: Albert Tan, Andre Tan & Utterly Art
Partial to the sensibilities of Pop Art, Andre Tan’s style is distinct. His deliberation upon Pop Art’s obsession with the everyday and its critique of popular culture is seen in the way he selects content for his work; focusing less on the concerns of commercialism and reflecting more on the process instead.
Holding a diploma in Fine Arts (Painting) from the LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts in 2000 and Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art with 1st Class Honors from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in 2004, Tan’s certainly boasts an academic prowess, which he caps off with Master of Arts in Fine Arts in 2006. And his skills are clearly evident in his work.
Represented by Utterly Art, Tan believes that not all art should be about a theory, and that it should appeal to the viewer’s aesthetic. “I don’t want to have to read up to understand what a work is about; I want to look at it and like it. That’s how I operate as an artist, by always pushing to see what is beautiful.”
Exposure to different mediums during the course of his studies eventually saw Andre choose Pop Art as his poison of choice because it is most relatable to him. The reproduction of images found in popular culture, advertising and mass communication, as well as the bright colours and mainstream comic characters had enticed him. “To me, popular culture is about daily life, about your surroundings. When you capture the beauty behind all these familiar things that usually you don’t take much notice of, that creates a work of art,” explains Tan. “I don’t particularly have a story behind every piece I do, nor do I feel pressured to. It’s up to the audience to interpret what they think of each work. It’s more about how one will relate to certain images, rather than my own interpretation. My work is all spontaneous, and I think it’s more about looking at things and exploring it.”
Using mostly flat colours, without shadings, Andre also encompasses stencilling in his pieces. In his latest ‘Guo Fu’ (国父) series, which uses our late founding father Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) as the main focus, the effect is created by layering different stencilled images to create a flat but at the same time slightly three-dimensional painting that is strikingly impressive. This series was inspired by the recent happenings, and done as a tribute in respect of LKY being Singapore’s founding father. “He’s amazing. Some people take a whole lifetime but are still unable to create anything substantial. For him, he built a nation.”
Andre displays many popular comic characters and brands in his paintings, staying true to the Pop Art culture. When asked about whether he has gotten into trouble for any copyright infringement issues, he mentions that he usually tweaks the images slightly, and doesn’t show them in any bad light. The messages in his paintings generally contain good vibes, without any bad connotations or political undertones. As for the aesthetic values, they’re important, but more for his personal satisfaction. The finished work must be something that he can honestly say he personally likes. “There’s a fine line between making money and making art. True, in Singapore, it’s hard to survive by just concentrating on being an artist alone. But I still feel that I have to be true to myself and create something for myself. Honestly, if you ask me what is Art; I can’t answer you! I only know that it’s an individual taste. I mean, I can’t force you to like something. Only you yourself know what you like, what you can relate to.”
In the recent SK Jewellery’s ‘Transcending Gold’ Art-Pairing exhibition, Andre was invited to commission a painting as the company liked the direction that he was going for. Looking at the bridal collection, which was decorated with dragons and phoenixes, Andre was inspired to create a painting of a bashful local Chinese bride, donning the gold jewellery pieces. The result was a stunning work that seemed to encompass the heart of the entire collection.
Andre stresses that his inspirations comes from everywhere, and he works day and night to put all this energy on canvas during his creative bursts. “It’s like reading a magazine, you don’t know what to expect until you flip the page. I don’t have a fixed direction, and have learnt to just go with the flow. Every collection has a theme, however; once I fix it down, I will go ahead and make it happen.”
When asked if he would consider using other techniques in future, the answer is unclear. Andre thinks that this journey he is on is a progression, and that he is always pushing the limits and boundaries to go past his comfort zone, as it will help him grow as an artist. “A lot of artists find their direction, and hang on to it because that sells, and they are known for their particular style. But this might hinder their journey, as they keep doing the same things. For me, I want to push myself further. Honestly, I wouldn’t know what I will be doing next. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”