Tan Kian Por (1949 – 2019)
Tan Kian Por was born in 1949, Chaozhou, China. He moved to Singapore in 1962, where he was introduced to ink painters See Hiang To and Chen Chong Swee by his teacher at Tuan Mong High School. In 1968, Tan enrolled at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) to learn Western painting but felt a more vital interest in ink painting and calligraphy. Eager to share his passion with others, Tan co-founded the Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal Carving, Calligraphy & Painting Society in 1971. As a highly competent painter, calligrapher and seal-carver who was also well versed in Chinese literature, Tan became the first Singaporean to be appointed the Overseas Honorary Member of the Xi Ling Art Society of Hangzhou, China, in 1994.
The fusion of traditional and contemporary elements is common in the artist’s oeuvre. Tan’s works reflect his cultural surroundings and encompass a range of themes, such as the flora and fauna and portraits of multicultural communities in Singapore. When his artistic career took flight in the 1970s, Tan was largely reputed for his innovative use of abstract expressionist features in his Chinese ink and brushwork, which he had adapted from his training in Western art. Over the years, Tan developed a style of Chinese painting that translates forms and words into considered and artful imageries. With seal carving, Tan experimented with shapes and sizes, which were unlike traditional seals. An artist who revelled in the contemporary, Tan sought new techniques and mediums of expression. This included the employment of technology, where he used computer software and digital photography to compose and assemble the three essential elements of Chinese brush painting–image, calligraphic text and seal–into a piece of artwork. In 2001, Tan was conferred the Cultural Medallion. Tan passed away in 2019. In 2021, NAFA presented Crashing Waves, Billowing Clouds, an exhibition that paid tribute to the late artist.