Share on:

Some of Tan Swie Hian’s greatest inspirations

Wisdom from books – and literary giants – that have deeply impacted the celebrated artist.

The Chinese translation of The Heart Sutra by Master Xuan Zang of Tang Dynasty

“Its 260 characters constitute the most precise description of the state of the enlightened mind. It draws the clearest picture of what is arising from conditional causation.”

3

A post-dinner walk with Romanian poet Marin Sorescu from his home to Tan’s hotel in Bucharest in 1995

“(It was) well past midnight, the street was dimly lit, broken, deserted, and the old buildings were ridden with bullet holes. The sporadic sound of a dog’s bark punctuates the night. Having gone through the most horrendous dictatorship of (Nicolae) Ceausescu, Sorescu said to me that censorship comes with the dawn of mankind and will never be done away. Instead of wasting time to debate, we could artfully dance with it.”

1

Early Spring by Guo Xi of Song Dynasty 

“It teaches me how art is not an exact representation of reality but, in Giacometti’s words, ‘the creation of a reality with the same intensity’. Guo’s landscape does not exist in reality, but is an assemblage of parts of landscapes from different locations. Art is a lie as claimed by Picasso and many other masters, an ethereal, virtual construct stored between heaven and earth.”

4

A conversation with French poet Henri Michaux while visiting Paris in 1973 

“An avant-garde poet who read Mediaeval classics, Michaux taught me a poet should have what T.S. Eliot terms as ‘historical sense’ – in that one should not only perceive the ‘pass-ness’ of the past but also its presence, thereby gaining his contemporaneity in time by being traditional.”

2