Seeing a play at the Arden? Why not go to Old City a bit early and stop in at the Dalet Gallery for a cutting-edge exhibition by world renowned 3D-digital-animation artist LiQin Tan? The solo show, PRIMITIVE-LEVEL SIGNALS, features selections from Tan’s earlier DIGITAL-PRIMITIVE series, along with a new body of work, BRAIN SPIRIT LEVELS, comprising digital prints on aluminum, inset with thematically relevant found objects.
The complex concept behind the Chinese-born artist’s latest work is the equalized procedure of human brain development. According to Tan, “The competing concepts of the brain—whether the battle of the brain’s size versus its intellectual capacity, or of its technological versus its spiritual side—are always kept in equilibrium.” To illustrate this natural phenomenon in humans, Tan inserts actual bubble levels and plumb lines into his surrealistic computer-generated laser prints of heads and skulls, thereby synthesizing traditional tools and organic forms with the latest digital methods.
Yet what is truly primitive in Tan’s work are not the manual tools, still in common usage throughout the world, but the digital devices and software that will soon become obsolete with the development of newer versions. Through all of these transitions and improvements in civilization, the human brain retains the capacity to integrate the most current inventions with core primitive values, maintaining a balance between the two. Tan explains: “As the ideologies and technologies of society change, today’s state-of-the-art technology will be tomorrow’s primitive skills.”
Among the timeless spiritual values incorporated into Tan’s work are references to the five elements of his native Taoist philosophy. Whereas the Western Aristotelian tradition identifies four elements (earth, water, fire, and air), Eastern cosmology includes five (earth, water, fire, wood, and metal). By printing his latest series of PRIMITIVE-LEVEL SIGNALS on metal panels, Tan honors age-old significations in his post-modern art.
Tan also considers the paradox in his combination of the passions of human physicality and brain activity with the bloodlessness of technology. His style is sharp, precise, and illusionistic, with a near-photographic mechanical simulation of the shapes and textures of the human anatomy. But closer examination of his BRAIN SPIRIT LEVELS reveals that Tan’s open heads are composed of innumerable nude bodies and dismembered parts, writhing and reacting to the stimuli felt by the nervous system, perceived by the brain, and borne by the spirit. The imagery is both terrifying and provocative, recalling the hell scenes of Hieronymus Bosch, the Freudian visions of Salvador Dalí, and the popular science-fiction films of Hollywood, but done in Tan’s own unique 3D-digital-animation style, where chip-stored data and human memories meet.
LiQin Tan’s ingenious PRIMITIVE-LEVEL SIGNALS, on view at the Dalet Gallery through June 23, is well worth a visit on your way to the theater, just up 2ndStreet from the Arden. His technique is flawless and his symbolism meaningful in our rapidly changing world.
by LiQin Tan
June 1-23, 2012
141 N. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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