Chan Thean Chie’s surreal tableaux are full of disembodied eyes, noses, ears and lips; heads and limbs that appear like inmates of collective captivity, and the gruesome remnants of a ritual ordeal; designs of radiating, swirling and looping lines, a series of webs, nets, vortices and abysses. The bodily fragments and abstract patterns of his visual world embody the reality of shifting cultural and psychic geographies, of migratory exigencies in the twentieth century, of the web of suffering, as Buddhist cosmology has it, that is existence in the human realm. His compositions are premised on the trauma of dissonance, expressed through signifiers of rupture, obsession, and imprisonment.
“As artists, we want to be free”, the artist declares, yet his visual world is very much ensnared in webs of illiberty. In his private pictorial realm, people are trapped in the snares of cyclic existence. In his vision of an unliberated cosmos, there subsist only the webs of karma, politics and the all too tangible reality of alienation–wherever one happens to be in the world, at home anywhere simply because not at home everywhere.