Art can come in many forms, from paintings to sculptures and even comics. The amounts of art styles that exist are unfathomable, and they grow with each passing day. For multidisciplinary artist Tan Swie Hian, art comes in the form of freedom. The freedom to be able to express his ideas and beliefs in whichever manner he can, allowing him to create many pieces of art, each different from the last in inspiration and design. That is the basis for his exhibition “Anatomy of a Free Mind” which has been featuring in Singapore as of late.

It all started for Tan Swie Hian in 1943. He was born in Indonesia, but his education was carried out in Singapore, it was here that he focused on studying literature and as thus graduated from the Department of Modern Languages and Literature in Nanyang. He would go on to work on different literary works upon his graduation, gaining recognition for his first anthology of Modernist Poetry, The Giant in 1968.

It wasn’t till 1973 that he held his art exhibition at the National Library, which marked a spiritual and creative awakening and allowed him to venture into the world of multidisciplinary art.

Over the years he has worked on multiple pieces, extending across different artistic mediums, genres, languages and subject matters, all with the focus of expanding his creativity and freedom. He even went on to be recognized as “Singapore’s Renaissance Man” by TIME magazine in 2003.

Of course, Tan hasn’t stopped writing either. Over the years he has also managed to create 58 different literary works along with his artistic creations. He has also held many solo shows worldwide and has received accolades both nationally and internationally.

All of those years of experience and creations came to a head in November of 2016 with the opening of Anatomy of a Free Mind at National Library. An event that showcases over 100 of Tan’s artistic works, open to the public so that they can learn and appreciate more of his art.

The event was kicked off with a Guided Tour by Tan himself, where he explained the inspiration and process of creating each of his works. But the event is still going strong today, with curator-led tours every month. This month’s tours, in particular, will take place on February 17th and 18th, with Friday showing a tour in English while Saturday will be in Mandarin.

It isn’t just tours that are offered, however. On February 18th you’ll also be able to attend an Art Journalist Workshop. Here you’ll be able to learn how artists record their ideas and inspirations and put them into work, allowing you to get a peek into their minds and what goes into creating one of their works.

On February 24th Tan Swie Hian himself will give a presentation on “Yu An Reclining in Snow” a work created by Wang Wei over a thousand years ago. The work has become infamous for depicting Yuan An, a nobleman from the Han Dynasty refusing to go out to get food while in a snowstorm, all the while showing a plantain tree covered in snow outside. People’s doubts come from the fact that plantains only grow in hot climates as opposed to the fact that snow only falls in cold countries. Tan aims to weigh in on this painting and its legacy, as well as what people think of it.

You can view and learn more about what will be shown in Anatomy of a Free Mind as it starts winding down, as well as register for admission and more information on the event through this website.

If you’re an art enthusiasts who wants to learn more about their craft, or just want to learn more about an artist’s technique and point of view then it’s an event you can’t miss.


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