Up Close: Tap Chan
By HG MASTERS
Full text also available in Chinese.
As a sculptor, Tap Chan has come into her own with works that blur categorical distinctions between the artificial and natural, sleeping and waking, and virtual and real. Mine Project’s presentation of Chan’s recent works in the Discoveries sector at Art Basel Hong Kong allowed visitors to experience the artist’s “post-reality” worldview. The sculpture Duplicity (all works 2022), which pairs an artificial plant and a living one, is a reflection of our rather pathetic inability to distinguish between the two, and the ways we’ve made even living things essentially artificial through their dislocation and material environs. In that sculpture, Chan constrains the pair of plants in metal pots with white barrier rails that she hand-molded from an “environmentally friendly”—whatever that means—thermal plastic used in 3D printing.
The conscious confusion of the handmade and the machine-made extends into a new series of beeswax sculptures. In Complex, Chan casts the yellow material into square blocks with slats once used in building construction to increase ventilation in hot climates like Hong Kong’s—before their disappearance in the era of air-conditioning. Chan also hand-molded a beehive, The Castle, that at nearly one-meter in height, looks uncannily like what children might make from sand at the beach. The artist parodies the pandemic paranoia around touching objects—including bar soap—in Sanitize Insanity, in which a coat-rack-like standing pedestal encased in white, molded-plastic holds large balls of pink Himalayan-salt soap and dark-gray charcoal soap. The sculpture Barrier, again made of hand-molded plastic rather than metal tubing, is a railing hung with white hair-like strands that are in fact thin strips of plastic. Reality, such as it is in Chan’s works, offers no firm support, and parting the plastic-hair curtains reveals neither signs of a sentient life nor a passageway: only a blank void of the wall.