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Of Birdmen and Other Extraordinary Events, by Howard Tan
20 December 2019 @ 10:00 am - 19 January 2020 @ 8:00 pm
Penangite Howard Tan is mainly a photographer but is now spending some of his time experimenting with photo collages and installation art. He enjoys very much the nostalgia engendered by rooting about in old towns and their flea markets with their vintage offerings from a time gone by. This feeling is very much reflected in his photographs.
For his inaugural exhibition in the newly renovated Heritage Wing of the E&O Hotel , Howard has reached into his magpie collection of vintage books and magazines from the 1960s and 1970s to create collage works of memories. His art is put together in layers. The first being clothbound covers of old schoolbooks, not unlike the heavy cloth backdrops used in “lau beh” (“old–fashioned” in Penang Hokkien), photo studios. Following that, he positions black and white cut out figures on top of the book covers, whimsically mimicking how subjects were made to pose for portrait shots. Then almost as if to shock hisaudience from their nostalgic reverie, the heads of the human subjects are replaced with bird heads. For a final flourish, vintage postage stamps give an air of authenticity and prestige.
Of Birdmen and Other Extraordinary Events is an exhibition of a bygone era where appearances count and people behaved themselves, at least long enough to be captured on film. And the bird heads mask their true thoughts and intentions.