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Tay Bak Chiang has a new guqin series (above) that will debut at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Tay Bak Chiang (above) has a new guqin series that will debut at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Tay Bak Chiang debuts at Art Basel HK

Mar 18, 2016 5:50 AM

ART BASEL Hong Kong (ABHK), which opens its doors next week, will see the Hong Kong debut of Tay Bak Chiang and his trademark paintings of rocks and boulders. Tay, whose luminous canvases often appear to have been lit from within, says he's thrilled to be involved in such a prestigious fair, the biggest in Asia. Other Singapore artists at ABHK include Jane Lee from STPI and Jimmy Ong from FOST gallery.

iPreciation the gallery is showcasing Tay's canvases at its booth. The works include his latest guqin series, the plucked seven-string Chinese instrument that has become his latest muse. Despite not knowing how to play it, Tay frequently imagines or listens to the music of the guqin while he is working in the studio.

Tay, 43, says: "In the course of studying Chinese culture, I didn't just study its painting traditions but also its musical traditions. The guqin is one of the oldest instruments and I've always seen it as something integral to the Chinese way of life. And though I can't play it, a lot of my friends do so when we meet for tea and sharing sessions." 

Tay is the second Singapore artist to debut in ABHK in iPreciation's booth since Lee Wen two years ago. The reception to Tay's show is expected to be good, as Tay's techniques blend Chinese ink painting styles with Western ideas of figuration and abstraction - making his works attractive to the contemporary art lover.

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Tay had garnered a fanbase since he began painting full-time more than a decade ago. But his popularity hit a new high when he began painting extraordinarily delicate images of rocks and boulders, which were inspired by a walk in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Tay says: "For me, the purpose of art is to create something unique that no one has seen before. It must be able to move the viewer, evoke new emotions, and give some insight into something. I want the encounter to be sublime, so the viewer can take away something personal and unforgettable from it."

"When I paint rocks these days, it's not rocks that I'm thinking about anymore. I think of them as a manifestation of something else, such as a thought I have or a sentence that captivates me. So when you see these rocks, you sense the traces of some other emotion."

Meanwhile, his new series of guqin paintings is striking for the fact that you rarely see the actual guqin - rather, you see its outline, or some trace of the instrument that had already been removed from the picture.

Tay says: "I'm interested in painting objects that are no longer there. Rocks, boulders and the guqin aren't really objects you find in contemporary homes. I paint all of them from memory, so it is their absence that I am trying to capture."

Art Basel Hong Kong opens next Tue and Wed for VIP previews, and Thu to Sun to the general public, at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre in Wanchai, Hong Kong