new-york

Fiona Tan

Peter Freeman, Inc.

The link between Fiona Tan’s Provenance, 2008, and old-master painting is counterintuitive, for Tan is not a painter but a video artist. In this group of filmic portraits—looped video studies of barely moving figures—she also limits herself to black-and-white, so that her strongest reference is to the photographic tradition. And yet that link is quickly sensed. It’s evident partly in the gravity of Tan’s process, the unhurried slowness with which she looks at people, her camera standing still or incrementally panning or turning. It’s partly the quality of the light, here restrained and even, there glowing from a window as in Vermeer, but always signal in its clarity, allowing a precision of vision that distinguishes and elevates Tan’s subjects. Finally, there is the idea that a portrait is built up not just of the features of the sitter’s face but of the details of his or her life—objects

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