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Featured Artist: Kai Syng Tan

At first glance, Kai Syng Tan’s colorful tapestry Magic Carpet (2017) is an explosion of colors, patterns, and motifs that draws you into a meandering labyrinth of designs.

Your eyes wander from the woven daguerreotype portrait of mathematician Ada Lovelace to a river of text that flows throughout the tapestry. Large written words (like “chimera,” “toes,” and “making”) in shades of purple and pink interpose parts of a scribbled poem (“I run and run and let out an earth-shattering roar”). As you follow the sinuous current of words and imagery to the other side of the tapestry, your eyes flit from highway signs to a depiction of My Little Pony peeking out from beneath a large, monstrous-looking octopus with the head of a cat.

Taking in this polychromatic tapestry feels like an electric, psychedelic trip. The free-flowing movement doesn’t follow a prescribed path or logical sequence. Instead, it entices your mind to journey through the looking glass, taking a whimsical visual and mental adventure filled with tumultuous energy, playful metaphors, and thought-provoking perspectives. Blink, and you might miss something.

Beneath the mesmerizing facade is a glimpse into the mind of an artist with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, known commonly as ADHD. Yet her artwork doesn’t tell the story of disorder, but, rather, represents a celebration of diversity.

Tan is one of several artists who uses art to explore the liminal thresholds of human consciousness, and who have found comfort in creating.

Tan challenges viewers to embrace the ambiguity of liminal thinking and explore the richness of neurodivergent perspectives.


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