Appropriation, as something that is borrowed or quoted from its original source which reveals the relationship between the original and the copy along with notions of ownership and authenticity, is a condition that appears and reappears in Gerry Tan’s work. His paintings are for the most part composed of multiple layers of imagery taken from the world of art, which in itself is a culture of representation; and from mass media, which involves the reproduction and dissemination of images. Such condition has been the critical discourse that corresponds to our postmodern moment, in the way that image reproduction has inserted itself as the primary mediator of our immediate experiences. Now, the situation is turned around where the copy is the original and the original is merely an echo of itself. Accordingly, this role reversal touches on issues about post-colonialism, which is a question of the master-slave relationship, as well as challenging previously held hierarchies in order to subvert and give way to new itinerant meanings.

In a project called “This is not Gregor Schneider’s House,” Tan quotes from the work of the German artist’s “Haus Ur,” which is another project that involves replication, for Tan to push further his own questions about the nature of appropriation and authenticity. Immediately we are caught in this referential twist as Tan’s house, though conceptually reminiscent, is not Schneider’s. Here, a photographic copy of Schneider’s project is printed on tarpaulin, which afterwards Tan paints over with oil pigments. Later, he will take another photograph of the said painting, and once more will reprint and repaint the same image all over again with the purpose of making an assembly line of duplicates. Through it all, the constant translation between images using a variety of media facilitates the birth of a distinct auratic signature that makes it different from its reproduction. This project is culminated by a television screen with a painted image of the exhibition that was taken from a video camera, which are all agencies of reproduction. Within this stuttering effect across media that repeats anew, Tan successfully arrives at something original from where he began.

The condition of multiplicity evidently points to the notion that language is never universal and pure, but is a combination of other languages immanently composed with shifting signs each distinct from the other. But amidst these differences a path towards an understanding needs to be negotiated in order to arrive. Tan’s solution to pull together the fragmentary condition of language is to allow its indeterminate nature to form a pattern expressed fluently in the poetic language of collage. It is a testament to his creative prowess that the collaged material appears to fall consistently on a well-designed layout, yet well thought out to be happenstance, with timely ruptures of painterly effects such as the drip, the smear, or the scrape, to facilitate narrative passages of compositional clarity.

It is interesting to note that though the paintings are ostensibly well composed, they do give a feeling of oppressive density, that the images collected could just pile up and give way to an implosion under the weight of information. In the series “Datum Plane” Tan confronts this terminal condition with painting, that with its long history of being a plane of reference and representational ground it has now reached a saturation point where the field has entropied into a bed of sediments, as dustbin of history. We witness then a scarring of the surface via curtains of abraded paint, which once was a beautiful façade but now marks the passing of time and the paroxysm of crisis.

Tan puts them all together into a fascinating whole, into a design which becomes an interface of an interface, a question that questions the question, and an endgame of the endgame having a solipsistic mirroring effect. An emptying of meaning by representing its meaning again, or the destruction of representation through the use of representation in order to present itself anew. But, in its density of references, under the weight of ever accumulating information, his work functions as a supercollider which crushes the informative substance into archival dust. Painting as datum plane. As contemporary culture expands into various technological networks supplying social needs, what becomes then of the role of criticality, of being aware through distance, when all that is collapsed to paves the way for instantaneous gratification, for the virus of profit. To say differently, what is the role

of the reader in society? When reading connotes a processing time to reflect, and to form meaning and judgment. Put in another way, the extinction of the reader also points back to the death of the author, since there is no more authentic meaning to be made but a reshuffling of what was already been said before. According to Yve-Alain Bois in his essay “Painting the Task of Mourning,” this death instinct was already immanent in the modernist drive towards the absolute. If we were to follow this essentializing drive into the dissolution of the image via abstraction, then indeed the possibility of painting’s afterlife begins in its end, through a representation of its abstraction. We return back to the idea of representation, but not in the mimesis of things as illusions, but a manner of depicting concepts through images as a form of language with the hope to communicate. To invite a witness, or a reader, that brings the author back to life.

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1960 born in Manila (Philippines)
lives and works in Manila (Philippines)

1992 State University of New York in Buffalo (USA)
1982 University of the Philippines, Quezon City (RP)

Exhibitions, projects (1999-2012, selection)

Gerardo Tan, Now Gallery, Manila (RP) (solo)

Sight Unseen, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz (A)(solo)
, Taksu, 43 Jalan Merah Sega, Singapur (SG)(solo)

Inversion of the Ideal,
Galerie Zimmemann Kratochwill, Graz (A)
Alliance Française de Manille
, Total Gallery, Manila (RP)(solo)

The Unnamable,
Manila Contemporary, Makati City (RP)(solo)

Beyond frame: Philippine Photomedia,
Ateneo Art Gallery, Quezon City (RP), La Trobe Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo (AUS), UTS Gallery, Sydney (AUS)
Datum Plane: Reaction Series, Mag:net Gallery, Quezon City (RP) (solo)
Recent Paintings and Collages,
Pablo Gallery, Metro Manila (RP) (solo)
How’s My Painting?,
MOP Projects, Gallery 1, Sydney (AUS)
Seeing You, Seeing Me: Contemporary Portraiture,
Manila Contemporary, Makati City (RP)
Maria Cruz, David Griggs, Raul
Rodriguez und Gerardo Tan, MoSpace, Metro Manila (RP)

Theatre of Disguise,
Finale Art File, Makati City (RP) (solo)
Mag:net Gallery, Quezon City (RP) (solo)

Flatbed Stories,
Mag:net Gallery, Quezon City (RP) (solo)
I have nothing to paint and I am painting it,
Mo_space Gallery, Metro Manila (RP)

This Is Not a Gregor Schneider Room,
Mag:net Gallery, Quezon City (RP) (solo)
Indiscrete Charm of the Burlesque,
Finale Art File, Makati City (RP)
Manila Envelope,
John Worth Ryder Gallery, Berkeley/Kalifornien (USA)
Specific Gravities 2,
Galleria Duemila, Pasay City (RP)

Doing Time,
Mag:net Gallery, Makati City (RP) (solo)
Picturing Painting,
Future Prospects, Quezon City (RP)
Other Matters,
Vargas Museum, Quezon City (RP)

Scanning the Mall: Seduction and Terror,Finale Art File, Makati City (RP)(solo)
Fast-food Cotan,
Kitchen, Mandaluyong City (RP) in Kooperation mit Magnet Gallery, Quezon City (RP) (solo)
Picture This,
The Art Center, Mandaluyong City (RP)
Divine Intervention: A collaboration with Gaston Damag and Manuel Ocampo,
Vargas Museum, Quezon City (RP)

New Work: Lost Regions,
Finale Art File, Makati City (RP) (solo)
The 4
th Gwangju Biennale: Pause, Gwangju (ROK)
Xs-XL, Expanding Art
, Sculpture Square, Singapur (SGP)
, The Art Center, Mandaluyong City (RP)

New Work: Lost Regions,
Big Sky Mind, Quezon City (RP) (solo)
, Finale Art File, Mandaluyong City (RP) (solo)
DLSU Art Gallery, De La Salle University, Metro Manila (RP) (solo)
Guilty Pleasures,
The Art Center, Mandaluyong City (RP)
Space Meeting Place,
Ayala Museum, Makati City (RP)
Faith and the City,
Singapore Art Museum, Singapur (SGP)

Finale Art File, Mandaluyong City (RP) (solo)
Cracks and Abysses,
The Art Center, Mandaluyong City (RP)
Peripheral Visions
, Ayala Museum, Makati City (RP)

The First Melbourne International Biennial,
Philippine Pavilion: The Golden Cargo Trading Company, Melbourne (AUS)