The dynamic of an artist duo is always an interesting one to observe. Of all the reasons two people choose to merge their artistic identities, Chinese art collective Tamen, composed of Lai Shengyu and Yang Xiaogang, chose a political one. In 2002, they became known by one name as a soft protest against the individualistic mindset that pervades today’s globalized society. As a result, their painting practice resembles that of conjoined twins: Each detail is executed as a seamless collaboration. Lai and Yang were born a year apart (1978 and 1979), completed the same post-graduate program in printmaking at Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2004 and both currently work in the Department of New Media Art in the Beihang University. Their nearly-parallel life paths converge with Tamen.
Tamen first gained renown for their “Same Room” series, an exploration of surreal interiors rife with metaphors and hidden meanings. For their upcoming show at Art+ Shanghai, “Outside Within,” Tamen let go of boundaries in a very literal away, abolishing the four-walled confines of a domestic interior and unleashing their surreal characters and scenarios into large, sparsely populated landscapes. Tamen’s approach to surrealism is decidedly philosophical. The title “Outside Within” alludes to the breakdown of several other kinds of walls: Not just interior versus exterior in regards to their choice of subject matter, but the thresholds that separate the mundane from otherworldly possibilities.
“Outside Within: New Works By Tamen” will be on view at Art+ Shanghai April 25 to June 29.
Lai Shengyu and Yang Xiaogang, collectively known as Tamen, in their studio.