“Betwixt” grasps the notion of an in-between space, both metaphorically and physically. As a Manchu, Tan’s visual language reflects his conceptions that originate from Chinese vernacular folktales, cultural myths, and religious iconographies. Having grown up in Fuxin, Northeast China, a city with abundant coal resources, Tan is inspired by the spaces above ground and in mines underground. By dividing these two spaces into the positive and the negative, he further advances his exploration of the binary through visual expressions.
Tan seems to re-establish a connection with his own culture and religion. Regardless of the cultural symbols of minorities in his paintings or his personal existence as a minority, he frames the transcendental experience of belonging to his culture into the current western context to express his desire to break free from the current chaotic and confused state to establish a virtuous state.