In this issue of ELEMENT Magazine, we step into the world of local artist, Danny Raven Tan. He offered to bring us on a tour of The Tiffin Gallery – an art space converted from the artist’s own apartment in one of Singapore’s oldest estates. Surrounded by the artworks in his living room, we sat down for a chat.
ELEMENT: TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR PAINTINGS.
Tan : My works are generally conceptual, impressionistic, provocative – some even controversial. I am experimental, and like pushing boundaries. I like to capture the energy and exuberance of my surroundings with rich and vibrant colours, and document dynamic compositions with bold brush strokes. The sheer anticipation of translating my emotions and ideas onto a white canvas are both exciting and agonising! I absolutely enjoy being lost in this uncertain journey of timeless space filled with possibilities.
I do not deliberately try to evocate controversial issues with shocking images through my works. Art should not be sensationalized. Rather, art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb those in comfort. I believe art can communicate what words cannot. I want visitors to say, “I am glad I came”, after visiting The Tiffin Gallery.
ELEMENT: ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY ANY INSPIRATIONAL FIGURES?
Tan : I am very much influenced by Austrian artist Voka, who coined the term Spontaneous Realism to describe the dynamic creative process of his representational and impressionistic imagery. The explosive colours and energetic brushwork in his paintings describe familiar images in a personal manner.
ELEMENT: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Tan : Currently, I am working on a collection titled COLOURS. I use various types of flowers in this collection. Flowers have long been admired and used by humans to beautify their environment. They are also used as symbols of romance, rituals, religion, medicine, and also as a source of food. Flowers have evolved to attract animals for pollination purposes so that they can be fertilized. Evolution helped them to reproduce. In a way, humans are similar to flowers. We strive to be attractive so that we gain attention, praises, and sometimes, even win favours. Our mission is to stand out and shine from the maddening crowd so that we can survive in this dog-eat-dog world. Sometimes, we are so consumed by our motives that we become encapsulated in our own world. This is represented by the use of resin, a plastic-like material. When it’s hardened, it becomes transparent, trapping the organic flowers with an artificial glossy allure. Are we or are we not similar to flowers, then?
ELEMENT: HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN AN ARTIST? WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO STEP OUT OF THAT COMFORT ZONE?
Tan : I love to draw. I started drawing when I was in kindergarten. When I was in Nanyang Junior College, I studied Art. That was the only time I had two years of formal training under Mr Poh Siew Wah, my art teacher, a Singaporean artist known for his powerful abstract expressionistic-styled paintings themed to Singapore and Southeast Asian landscapes.
In 2009, I was offered the marketing manager’s position in LASALLE College of the Arts. My job was to intensify the LASALLE brand and increase international student recruitments in the Asia Pacific region. During that time, I was very happy working in a creative environment with some of the most talented and wonderful people.
In 2015, a series of regretful events happened at home and in the office. It made me decide to reassess my priorities in life. My dad has passed on and my mom was diagnosed with early cognitive dementia. Office politics were almost pushing me off the edge and going to work was not fun anymore. Thus, I left with a heavy heart. The decision to leave was difficult but necessary for my sanity.
With all the free time at hand, I started painting seriously and consistently. I was churning out paintings almost every other week. One day, I decided to purchase the most expensive gift for myself – my dream. I bought a 4-room apartment with my partner and turned it into a studio and art gallery. I wanted to pursue my dream and become a painter.
The thought of going without a fixed income and living on my savings frightened me. My mom’s medical bills, household bills, and other necessities were exhausting. My mom’s dementia proved to be extremely challenging. I was helpless. Some days, I felt like I was screaming in a vacuum. Other days, I was drifting in space. I felt helpless at that point of time.
Then three of my paintings from my collection NO OTHER NAME was sold on Saatchiart.com, I was reassured that there are people on this planet who appreciated my work and willing to pay for it.