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Paradise - Tombstone Rubbing No. 2, 2020, aluminium foil paper, 103 × 152 × 8 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Paradise - Maidservant, 2020, aluminium foil paper, 70 × 26 × 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Paradise – Horse-keeper and Horse, 2020, aluminium foil paper, 50 × 55 × 38 cm, 44 × 60 × 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

TAN Kian-Ming

The First Genre: Sacrifice and Salvation

Paradise is a rubbing project collecting particular stone statues and stone animals erected during British-Malaya period from Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia. Stone statues usually stand the front both sides of the Chinese tombs as tomb-guardians and funeral decoration. This kind of ancestral custom was practised by wealthy influential families and Chinese officials who were conferred official rank from the Qing governor at that time. Meanwhile, plenty of Chinese immigrants migrated to different places in southeast Asia during the Qing dynasty. The meaning of death is also a beginning of the next life in the Chinese funeral tradition, so the function of stone statues is not only as guardians protecting the tomb, but also demonstrates the status of the deceased through the tomb-design.

Tombs can be a storable medium that stores and bears history and memory in some way. Thus, Kian seeks to examine its materiality via utilizing the visual symbol of funeral artefacts to construct an imaginary scene between the present-life and the after-life. Paradise is also an illusionary enclave that conveys fragmental fragility in relating to desire and death, British colonialism and the foreign relations of the Qing dynasty.


Tan Kian-Ming was born in Malaysia in 1991, and he graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London (M.F.A.) in 2020. In his work, Tan examines the interplay between folk customs and contemporary religious issues through installation, video and painting. His long-term practices are a series of rubbing project works with various ancient tombstones, and war monuments which delve into personal and collective memories; probing postcolonial condition, immigration and the ambiguous position of the Chinese diaspora. His works poetically deal with the reconstruction of monumental spatiality, home, and displacement.