WORLD ON HALLUCINATIONS BY CHEN YI QUAN. Opening Saturday 26 June 2021 | 2pm – 6pm

Chen Yi Quan (b. 1982, Singapore) is a self-taught painter. Yi Quan obtained a degree in psychology from the National University of Singapore and is of Teochew-Hakka descent. His interest in painting was first piqued by the Nanyang style painters; the Balinese Barong, by Singaporean artist, Cheong Soo Pieng. This led to a further exploration of the works of European painters such as Gauguin, Cezanne, and Chagall, as well as the cubist tradition. Well situated in an environment that represents a meeting point between China and Western thought, in terms of language and culture in general, he began a careful study of the classical Chinese painters through to the modern masters. This eye on the hybridisation of forms, pluralism, and the pursuit of relatability with the viewer ultimately showed up in the use of Chinese ink, perhaps functioning as a conduit for his questions on ethnicity, identity, and aesthetics in post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore.
Yi Quan researches extensively on eastern and western philosophies, from the Vedanta to the Tao De Jing, from the existentialist writings of Kierkegaard to the Zen-Buddhist canon. His art-making process is informed by surrealist visions, the domain of hallucinations as well as automatic qualities embedded within forms, and mysticism, which he feels allows him to attain a degree of creative expression that is rooted in his deep, personal explorations into meditative practices, yoga, and aesthetic forms gleaned from nature. It’s evident in this work, The Old Man and the River. The painting seems to capture the moment where the old man has caught a fish. This can be seen in the energetic flex of the rod and the pose of the man. The rod with the black line is done with one swift stroke, giving great emphasis on the spring of the string and the leap of the bright yellow fish. While the free and spontaneous style of the painting is done like those in Chinese ink paintings, he has given the work a contemporary spin through his use of vibrant colours and a series of textured surfaces. Perhaps this work underscores the elusive nature of the Tao; in traditional lore, this was Jiang Ziya of the Zhou dynasty. In narratives that live on till today, a sage waits patiently for the archetypal prince. However, there is neither sage nor prince in the spirit of the cosmos, only the omnipresent Tao.
Yi Quan also draws inspiration from politically meaningful art around the world and pursues a style of painting which is abstract, experimental, and at times evocative of the ever-elusive bond between man and nature, body and spirit, the city and the forest. “The formation of mountains precedes the oldest civilizations – one is by the will of God, one by the will of man”, is the theme to another of his work, The Sun and the Moon. Here man becomes one with the mountain, vibrant colours with very free strokes, simplified subject matters and an emphasis on the movement of water and paints texture, is foreground by a solitary figure sits on his raft. The brilliant red and orange sky above is punctuated by the broad strokes of seemingly incompatible black and white clouds. The result is a dynamic mix of movement and rhythm in the painting; this shows that he is at the point of experimentation.
The notion of spirit within a work of art cannot be easily articulated as it can be in the case of normal discourse, since the latter is facilitated with language whereas the former is based entirely on the visual faculty. Yi Quan literary themes artworks often arrive at a point where form becomes formless, the categorical becomes relative, and the east becomes the west, as in this work, Southeast Asia. The painting shows an abstracted street scene; from the outset, one can see hints of activity at the bottom of the image, and one could almost make out rows of laundry being hung out at the side of the façade. What he is trying to do here is to capture the essence and energy of a space, however, not just any space, but one common in Southeast Asia. Compared to conventional painting styles, there is a deliberate stylization of form and detail. Long strokes with brighter colours, like yellow and green, cut across big spaces to suggest buildings or structures. Darker lines and more quick strokes give weight and build more defined shadows. The movement and rhythm in the painting is a reminiscence to the style likened to the master painters like Cheong Soo Pieng and Chua Ek Kay.
Yi Quan believes that if the goal was to paint freely without the constraints of theory, categorization, and division along cultural lines, each artist arrives at this elusive psychological state that defies definition eventually; the paths taken may be different, but the destination is the same. Yi Quan is primarily interested in the conversations that surround the interactions between art and spirituality. His interlaced works are neoteric visuals set in an idiosyncratic realm between art and spirituality – a world on hallucinations.

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50 Genting Lane #03-02 Cideco Industrial Complex Singapore 349558
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