Yifeng Tan

Having left China 18 years ago I had to confront a number of obstacles – learning English, earning a living and coming to grips with a different culture – but I had the freedom to paint how and what I wished. Hurdles faced by a migrant in a new country, and difficulties generally encountered in life, are played out in many of my paintings with a tongue-in-cheek, sardonic sense of humour some might perceive as being Australian in character, but which no doubt find their real impetus in my experiences of a politically straight-jacketed, tradition-bound Chinese art world.

My art is personal and is a means of understanding what was originally for me an alienating and disturbing environment.

The big bowl motif is central to my latest series of paintings. In this series a number of pink-faced men (as seen in earlier works) are crammed inside and spill over the edge of the bowl. Their situation is precarious and uncertain. It is difficult not to parallel these scenes with the desperate journeys made by refugees.

The figures in my paintings interact in environments in which they are obviously not comfortable. The atmosphere is charged with a continual sense of imminent but understated action. I endeavour to convey this sense of expectation to the viewer so that they may determine the when, what and why of the action. The allusory network each viewer brings to the work is as important as the contents of the images I place before them.

My art is characterised by ambiguity. I pictorially pose the viewer with a list of unanswered questions (or at least intimate the possibility of questions) and yet find the viewer poses their own.

The world I paint is one that speaks of my Chinese origins and of my current home in both Australia and China. I use ambiguity to assist in the articulation (although full articulation is not a desired outcome) of the individual’s place in a multicultural world.

—Yifeng Tan, 2008


Solo exhibitions

2010 Jackman Gallery, Melbourne

2010 New Paintings & Sculptures, Artimages Gallery, Adelaide

2009 Jackman Gallery, Melbourne

2009 Inspiration, Solander Gallery, Canberra

2009 Courtyard Gallery, Beijing, China

2008 New Paintings, Paddington Contemporary, Sydney

2007 Apples Series, Shanghai Art Fair, Shanghai, China

2007 New Paintings, Prints, Impression on Paper Gallery, Canberra

2005 China Landscape, Stephanie Burns Fine Art, Canberra

2004 Big Sky, Stephanie Burns Fine Art, Canberra

2003 New Directions, Contemporary Art Space, Canberra

2003 Stephanie Burns Fine Art, Canberra

2003 Fishermen,Span Gallery, Melbourne

2002 Michael Carr Art Dealer, Sydney

2002 Collection Room, Stephanie Burns Fine Art, Canberra

2001 Across the Fence, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra.

2000 Across the Fence, Michael Carr Art Dealer, Sydney

2000 Football Field, Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney

1999 Drawing and Painting, Spiral Arm Gallery, Canberra

1999 In and Out, AAAA Gallery, Sydney

1993 Chinese Brush Painting, Graphix Brasserie, Canberra

1989 Solo Art Exhibition, Nanjing, China

1988 Solo Art Exhibition, Harbin, China

Selected group exhibitions

2010 Crossover, Sunshine International Art Museum, Beijing, China

2010 Comings and Goings, Chinalink Gallery, Sydney

2009 Coming Home, Lin Da Gallery, Beijing, China

2009 Important Australian Artists, Solander Gallery, Canberra

2008 Southern Skies, Chinese Artists in Australia, Australia Embassy Beijing, China

2008 Art Warehouse East District Art, Songzhoang, Beijing, China

2008 From Mao To Now, Newlington Art Gallery, Sydney

2007 International Contemporary Art, Front Art Gallery, Beijing, China

2007 Living in Songzhuang. Songzhuang Art Gallery, Beijing, China

2007 Songzhuang Contemporary Art Traveling Exhibition, China

2007 Huan Tie times Art, Beijing, China

2007 Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China

2007 Eastern Modern Art Gallery, Jining, China

2007 Art Gallery of Lu Xun Arts University, Shenyang, China

2006 Sulman Art Prizes, NSW Art Gallery, Sydney

2006 Our Biennale, Michael Carr Art Dealer, Sydney

2006 Art on the Rocks, Rocks, Sydney


2003 Winner of Canberra Art Prize, Oil Painting Award

2001 Awarded Art ACT Grant, Canberra

2000 Awarded Pat Corrigan Artist Grant, NSW

1993 Emerging Artists Support Scheme, The National Recording Studio Group Award, Canberra

1993 Scholarship, Canberra School of Art, ANU


Beijing Songzhuang Art Gallery

The Australian Prime Minister Hon Kevin Rudd MP

The Australian Ambassador in Beijing Dr Geoff Raby

Art Bank, Australia

The Australian National University, Canberra

National Recording Studio, Canberra

Chun Sun Newspaper, Nanjing, China

Andrew Forrest Family Collection

Janet Holmes a Court Family Collection

Georgina M Cainegie Family Collection.

Private Collections throughout Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paris, Singapore and USA.