About the Monroe Series 關於夢露系列
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was the most celebrated exotic beauty in the 20th century. Integrating his real-life experience with Monroe as the creative symbol, Tan Kai-I created a riveting painting series that brought a humorous touch of tragedy to the viewers.
Many people would ask: why Monroe?
As far as Tan is concerned, Monroe was an exceptionally pretty woman. She was beautiful, sexy, adorable and appealing. In addition to exuding unconventional pulchritude, she was as self-confident as languid. She remained unruffled and charming even though she was in her birthday’s suit.
Nonetheless, Tan chose Monroe as the subject because he detected a sense of loneliness in her eyes.
In the compositions of Tan’s works, Monroe often appeared in solitude, being detached from her immediate surroundings. She tended to smoke and act unconcerned even though people were around her. In this way, Tan seemed to suggest that absolute solitude actually looms behind the veil of the gorgeous, voluptuous and captivating prototype of Monroe.
To the artist’s eye, Monroe was such a figure rich in gradation and aesthetic beauty, which was why he adopted her image to convey his ideas about life, no more than Monroe was the protagonist in the film directed by the artist in which she recounted the story that the artist attempted to tell.
Tan Kai-I, Marilyn Monroe in New York, 2011, 162x130cm, Oil on canvas
The Artist’s Imagination about Monroe
The "Monroe Series" was primarily based on Monroe’s stage and life photos derived from magazines and the Internet. Tan collected these photos, and then simplified as well as modified the images, thereby putting his own interpretations on them.
In this series, Monroe was a ravishing protagonist traveling through space-time and wandering across reality and virtuality. Via Monroe as an intermediary, the artist managed to express and simulate his ideas about his life experiences and emotions, be they loneliness, joy, sadness, delight, or contradictory feelings of all stripes.
The diverse backgrounds of the works in this series ranged from wilderness and battlefield to buildings and even refrigerators, against which Monroe was always calm and composed, puffing away at a cigarette.
(left) Tan Kai-I, Marilyn Monroe in the Tree, 2011, 162x130cm, Oil on canvas
(right) Tan Kai-I, Marilyn Monroe Comes Out of Hibernation, 2011, 162x130cm, Oil on canvas
Tan deliberately created a contradictory and ambiguous tendency between the protagonist and the scenes in the "Monroe Series." The contradictions emerged on the one hand from the artist’s understanding of Monroe’s personal traits, (i.e., loveliness, attractiveness, innocence and charm intertwined with sex, politics, power and desire), and on the other hand out of the artist’s checkered life experiences, since many events and emotions are quite irreconcilable in our quotidian existence, insofar as we believe that life consists of contradictions.
Admiring Tan’s works, we may discern the treacherous, amusing, pleasant or mocking undertones in the compositions. Whatever implications they carried, each of his works was laden with a faint hint of sorrow. Tan believes that in some ways his oeuvre is a dead ringer for Charles Chaplin’s films that are as humorous and entertaining as thought-provoking.