Qin Tan


The virtual space has become a part of reality as we know it, so much so that we have evolved to interpret and experience the natural space through digital means.


Qin Tan (b.1993, Beijing, China) has studied at the Studio Art Center Internationals in Florence and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Tan’s work has been exhibited at the Pantocrator Gallery (Shanghai), Ryan James Fine Art (WA), VisArts (MD) and Mclean Project for Arts (VA) among others. She was selected as the recipient of the GAP Award from Artist Trust, Seattle (2016) and the TAIP Award from the city of Tacoma, WA (2017). Most recently, she has been an artist in residence at the Wassaic Project, NY.


My work are personal narratives inspired by introspective and spiritual contemplations which reveal my human relationship to the physical universe and its underlying purpose. Riddled with mysticism and unfathomable scientific proofs, my explorations within these theories serve as the foundation for the stories told by my works. It is through these explorations that I seek to create fictional worlds which remain metaphorically true to reality. I intend to juxtapose the material world with the multitude of languages, peculiarities, and symbols found within the virtual world to reveal the at-times absurdly symbiotic quality of these two realities which are unique to the time period I am born in. In doing so, I hope to provoke reflection on the social, spiritual, and physical characteristics of the contemporary human situation; an experience in which so many things are viewed and processed indirectly, often in a fragmented manner.

In Becoming Singular - single channel video projection, tape & reflective sheets - 2018

Tell us about your use of light as material, both in projected imagery and your use of reflective surfaces.

In my recent pieces, I’ve been experimenting with the projection of light on various surfaces and spaces to add depth to two-dimensional moving images. In doing so, I am able to treat light as a material that I can give character, dimension, and purpose to. I’ve also discovered reflective surfaces as tools that can be leveraged to cut up and redirect light, allowing for endless possibilities to alter and reconstruct the audience’s perception of space.

In Extending Absence - single channel video projection with sound & mirror - 2019

Tell us about your construction and manipulation of space within installations like In Extending Absence.

This piece was one of the more intuitive and exploratory pieces I immersed myself with when I was doing an art residency at the Wassaic Projects in NY. I wanted to see how far I could extend the light that was being emitted through a single channel video projection and how it could, in turn, completely bend and reconstruct the original space. Mirrors were placed on the walls to redirect the light hitting its surface while also reflecting the space that surrounded it. I wanted to break up the original small, cube-shaped white studio space into one where each surface interacts infinitely with each other. The visual effects observed within the space change when viewed through different angles, as each mirror reflects a unique fragment of the original space and projection. The outcome of this project was the creation of an endlessly ‘self- referential’ space.

Eternal Life of the Roasted Swan - acrylic on canvas - 2019

Can you talk about your conceptual use of pixelization within your recent paintings?

I am interested in exploring the idea of ‘absence’ by using pixelation as a contemporary method to deconstruct a picture visually in order to express a lack of data. In my paintings, I leverage it as a way to metaphorically represent concepts that are not solidified and lack finality, yet still exist in the form of “potential”. The pixelated yellow gold backdrop that can often be observed in some of my works is symbolic of a spiritually religious context. I use this abstraction to express ambiguity with regard to the idea of ‘god’; I feel that this approach is the most honest one possible because I do not know what ‘god’ looks like. It is impossible to ascertain if the pixelated image can be concluded as increasingly comprehensive, or if it is more-so incomplete; the beauty of it lies in that it exists in an eternally paradoxical state.

How Can You Win if You Don't Know the Rules Yet - acrylic on canvas - 2019

Can you elaborate on your blending of analog and digital approaches within your creative practice? Tell us more about the relationship between traditional visual art and technology.

I incorporate a lot of symbols and references to technology into my practice because these are the things that I interact intimately with on a day-to-day basis. The virtual space has become a part of reality as we know it, so much so that we have evolved to interpret and experience the natural space through digital means. In my new pieces, I gravitate towards these symbols and tools because they’ve become so impactful on how I experience life that I want to acknowledge and incorporate them into my work.

Though traditional methods of art making have gradually evolved to allow for the exploration of new mediums and ideas, I believe that the role of the artist remains the same. We want to capture life as we experience and interpret it; from emotions to culture, from physical objects to intangible ones; it can be endless things that are relevant to our time. I often look at traditional art, and to this day, I still find myself in awe of paintings & sculptures from the past. There is so much that one can grasp from looking at works from long ago. Each one conveys the artist’s depiction of what it means to be alive in their age; an individual narrative that is not unlike a time capsule.

I'm a Real Player but I Always Forgot - acrylic on canvas - 2019

How does your work capitalize upon the use of moving images and time-based media?

Although I was trained as a painter, I started to use moving images as a means to elaborate on my ideas and themes in ways which still-images just cannot convey. I enjoy using video projections to incorporate sound, dimensionality, and narrative development in order to create a more comprehensive narrative that wouldn’t otherwise be possible through a traditional painting. I’ve always been envious of a filmmaker’s capability to affect an audience’s experience by way of building suspense, injecting emphasis, and inspiring emotional connection. These are all things that become infinitely more manipulable when the dimensions of time and motion are added to a sequence of images.