Casey Tan: Night Call

Cuturi Gallery is proud to present Night Call by Casey Tan (b. 1994, Singapore). Navigating a delicate balance between reality and imagination, Tan’s new selection of paintings sheds light on the daily turbulence that goes on within our inner worlds. By tapping into a wealth of emotions that come with charting how it feels like to be an observer and a participant held within the confines of our own bodies, Tan paints different narratives that unfold within private moments. With canvases that represent a kaleidoscope of joy, vulnerability, and introspection, Tan explores these feelings through the use of colours and characters that shape the emotional landscape of our interconnected society.


In this series of works, Tan confesses a fascination between escapism and reality. The contrast between the two themes creates a dynamic tension within the series, inviting viewers to contemplate the interplay between fantasy and the tangible world. He layers these thoughts unabashedly through his reimagined landscapes and draws inspiration from the seemingly quiet and mundane. Emphasising a spotlight on routine activities, Tan’s characters are set against familiar local backdrops. In works such as “Heat” (2023), we observe the juxtaposition of the typically joyful activity of mahjong transformed into what feels like an apocalyptic scene. By using hues of red and green in his paintings, Tan evokes an unsettling atmosphere, intending to encapsulate the everyday instances of isolation and uncertainty taking hold of a moment. Often using characters and alter-egos that recur in his paintings, Tan blends the politics of selfhood and identity with the deeply personal inner lives of individuals.


Usually known for populating his canvases with a myriad of characters onto a single canvas, Tan now beckons our focus to each individual character in his works. Behind contorted expressions and sombre moments are characters who are used as a gateway to capture what goes on within the four walls of homes in Singapore’s concrete jungle. A sense of alienation creeps in as a poignant element in Tan’s storytelling arsenal as characters represent an emotional inner tug-of-war between individuality and the weight of societal norms. Through his paintings, Tan personally reflects on being a product of his habitat and the pressure to conform to norms– expectations of romantic companionship, an idealised career path, and the inevitable weight of being moulded by the societal benchmarks around us. Despite the palpable alienation that surrounds the room, there is a quiet acceptance of succumbing to the mundane, forging a sense of comfort amidst the societal chaos.


Tan holds on to his distinctive visual language of incorporating playful elements to convey underlying messages in his works. In “Familiar Scent” (2023), Tan paints a scene of his own take on Adam and Eve. In a narrative dating back to ancient times, Adam and Eve succumb to temptation, eat forbidden fruit, and are expelled from paradise, illustrating the consequences of disobedience and the loss of innocence. Through clever reinterpretation, this traditional narrative takes on a contemporary twist through whimsical elements, modern attire, and eccentric details. Painting with a third-person perspective in mind, Tan offers windows into worlds that are cathartic in their contradictions: simultaneously singular and universal and sombre yet full of hope.


At the heart of Night Call is desire, all disguised in expressions of grief, the clench of a fist, the promising burn of a sunrise, and a yearning eye. Tan captures the fleeting nature between inner worlds and explores the desire for an idealised, alternate existence and the necessity of confronting the challenges of the real world.


Night Call will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 6 January to 3 February 2024.



About the Artist:


Casey Tan (b. 1994) is a Singaporean painter whose works focus on visual metaphor and narrative. Drawing inspiration from everyday life, Tan transforms the ordinary into a harmony of metaphors and narratives while still staying in check with reality.


In his artistic process, Tan refrains from relying solely on intuition. Adopting a meticulous approach to his paintings, he dedicates his time to sketching and planning before applying the first strokes to the canvas. Developing a fascination for a clinical methodology in his works, he treats his studio as an operating theatre. This clinical approach is also evident in the physicality of his paintings, where brush strokes are orderly, and the surface appears smooth, resembling a print despite the multiple layers of paint applied. This methodical working style permeates the composition of his pieces, imparting a sense of monotonous regularity reminiscent of everyday life. Known for his visual language of incorporating whimsical elements, Tan also enjoys infusing his touch of drama and fantasy into his paintings.


In 2016, Tan graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), where he received the Ngee Ann Kongsi Scholarship. In 2019, he was honored as the UOB Most Promising Artist of the Year for his piece, “The Water Is Wide.” Currently residing and working in Singapore, Casey’s artworks are housed in private collections and have been showcased in exhibitions at Cuturi Gallery, Paris Asia Now and ART SG.

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