Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions

The End of Love
30 August – 26 November 2017
Whitechapel Gallery, London

14 June – 10 September 2017
Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Ce qui est ls
26 May – 10 September 2017
Caen Museum of Fine Art, Normandy

The Very Impress of the Object
13 July – 2 October 2017
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisabon

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Fiona Tan is an artist working primarily with film and video. She is best known for her skillfully crafted and intensely moving installations, in which explorations of identity, memory and history are key.

Fiona Tan initially became known for a body of work that relied on the use of archival films, questioning the observer and the observed and challenging the assumptions of the colonial past. Portraiture has been explored in various works combining an analysis of its art-historical and sociological context with how time influences our perception of those portrayed. Recent works concentrate on how memory is connected to images in our mind and on how inaccurate and yet creative memory can be. Throughout her work Tan shows a continuing interest in the motivations of the traveler or explorer. The question how we represent ourselves and what mechanisms determine how we interpret the representation of others, are repeatedly being investigated, revealing what is behind and also beyond the confines of the image.

Both poetic and subversive, Tan’s work is characterized by great attention to detail, accomplished editing of sound, word and image and the careful use of the sculptural space and architecture in which a piece is presented. These elements combine to produce a sensory experience equal to its intellectual content. The elements of man’s existence – our sensual impressions, the interplay of memory, knowledge and image, and our awareness of time and space – seem to collide and merge into one intensified experience of being. Tan is, as one writer put it, an artist of ‘images that refresh the gaze.’

Early works such as Facing Forward (1998) have been analyzed from a post colonial perspective, while her explorations of the portrait genre address notions of the self and the complex status of the portrait as a medium of representation. Countenance (2002) and The Changeling (2006) have been discussed within the discourse on the archive and archival principles. Notions of painting seem to surface in her use of colors, the visual richness of the images and the quiet, timeless character of the viewing experience. Whilst the spatial concerns that lie at the heart of how her installations are conceived, recall the concerns of sculpture.

Tan has participated in many international exhibitions including the Documenta and the Biennales of Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Sydney and Yokohama. In 2009 Tan represented The Netherlands at the Venice Biennale. Her work is represented in numerous international public and private collections including the Tate Modern, London, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the New Museum, New York.

Fiona Tan lives and works in Amsterdam. She is represented by Frith Street Gallery, London, Wako Works of Art, Tokyo and Peter Freeman Gallery, New York.






Fiona Tan is represented by:

Frith Street Gallery, London

Wako Works of Art, Tokyo


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Marebito, 2001

artist's book
offset full-colour and b&w, 33 x 23 x 1.5 cm

MAREBITO - Fiona Tan

Artist’s book
Limited edition of 500, signed and numbered by the artist
Photographs: Fiona Tan, Hugo Dijkstal
Texts: Nosongdang, C.J.Coen, H. Schliemann, Fiona Tan
In English and in Japanese
Design: Oliver Kleinschmidt, Fiona Tan

Presented in a specially designed and hand-finished folder, the artist’s publication Marebito* encompasses two individually bound books. One book shows only images, the other only text. The images are photographs, snapshots taken during Tan’s first trip to Japan and old Japanese postcards collected by the artist. The textbook spans extracts from four travel journals. Each was written by a different traveller in a different era, journeying to Japan for the first time.

The images in Marebito deal with the touristic gaze. Parallel to the text contributions, the photos and postcards are loosely arranged in a story-line recalling a brief visit to a foreign country. The glimpse is fleeting and by nature distant. Similar to the attitude of the Dutch documentary filmmaker Johan van der Keuken, it endorses the open and curious eyes of a traveller.

The layout of the four text excerpts enables a reader to compare and contrast four individual journeys. Surprising similarities arise despite the differences in time and disposition, but it is not the aim of this book to disclose a truthful or accurate account of Japan. Each of the authors, including the artist herself, is a product of the time and circumstances in which he or she finds themselves. Akin to science fiction, the journals portray in many ways more about the writers themselves than about their subject.

Current discourse in contemporary art deals little with the limitations of travel. The traveller is glorified in this age of increasing mobility. Hence there is hardly any attention paid to the issue of the traveller’s shortcomings such as the limited view of a temporary visitor. All of us are tourists when we travel elsewhere, although few of us would care to admit this. One can doubt the so appealing idea of effortlessly crossing cultural borders. Perhaps the Japanese are more aware of this than, for example, Europeans. Possibly the many words in the Japanese vocabulary for ‘foreigner’ are an acknowledgement of this.

*– ‘Marebito’ is an archaic Japanese word. It can be translated into English as ‘foreigner’, ‘stranger’, ‘visitor’ or ‘person from beyond the boundaries’. It was a name given to travellers such as travelling craftsman, but also to vagabonds and homeless beggars. Marebito was the stranger from outside – possibly sacred or godlike – who was the bearer of good luck or bad fortune.


Marebito, 2001