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At the end of the nineteenth century, several revolutionary-minded young Chinese artists attempted to create a "New National Painting" style reflecting the impending cultural and political changes. From other cultures, they brought innovative ideas, new subjects, and techniques such as fixed perspective, shading light effects and strong unconventional colors. They then added their own creative energy, bringing a new richness and depth to the traditional art forms—creating the Lingnan school of Chinese brush painting. In the past twenty-five years, my own search for inspiration has led me to extend my work beyond the traditions of the Lingnan school, creating a style of Chinese brush painting which is distinctly my own.


I’ve tried to move beyond tradition to create new images, composition and mood—to introduce a sense of freedom and life and harmony, free from the rules and constraints of the past. I stress mood and feeling in my paintings, achieved through the harmony of colours in the background. I paint my feelings and allow the appreciative eye to interpret my works according to what it sees. Others may not see my work as I intend, but that’s fine. Reading a painting is personal.


I paint mostly from memory. I use my mind like a camera. I seek inspiration everywhere...on my travels, in the works of other artists, and especially in nature. I dream about the subject and the scenery in my mind. Then the driving force of inspiration pushes me to put that dream onto paper. Many of my paintings contain birds. To me they symbolize the essence of life—beauty, harmony, and freedom. And of course, romance. When I look at a bird in flight—free to go wherever it wants—dreaming is easy. Recently I find myself moving toward the contemporary...Chinese painting should not be just plum blossoms, bamboo, and mountains. Contemporary painting gives me the chance to explore new directions and to expose myself to a new world where what matters is image and emotions, not just subject. But even then, I blend East and West: the delicacy of Chinese brush painting with the excitement of Western art.


I often experiment with new methods and media—acrylics, oils, even newspapers and sponges. I like to try new things – new subjects, new techniques. But I always paint the way I want. I believe in following my inspiration, wherever it leads—a personal, never-ending task. I’m always somewhere but I never arrive.


Biography of James Tan


The youthful, innovative spirit of the founders of the Lingnan School has inspired James Tan to extend his own work well beyond tradition. He blends mastery of Chinese brush painting with an ability to capture the essence of Western culture, thereby creating a style of Chinese brush painting which is distinctly his own.


James Tan graduated from the Singapore Academy of Art in 1972 and continued his studies with Chinese brush painting masters in Singapore, Taiwan and San Francisco until 1980 establishing himself as a master of the traditional and Lingnan schools of Chinese brush painting with his own distinctive style. He has taught and lectured extensively world-wide, including The National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore), The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. and annual lecture & demonstration at the arts in Action? festival in London, U.K. Mr. Tan has won an extensive list of awards and honors and has exhibited extensively. 38 one-man shows in Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Dubai, Bahrain, Australia, England, Germany, the U.S.A., and Canada.


James' recent works retain the same exquisite quality that has made his name synonymous with creativity and true excellence around the world. His works are represented in international private and corporate collections world-wide. Several books have been published featuring his and his students works.


He is the President of the Chinese Canadian Artists Federation in Vancouver (2007-2009) and (2009-2011). Director of Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver, Museum curator of Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Member of The City of Vancouver Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee 2010-2011, 2009 he have been nominate and Selected in the Finalists of 2009 AsiaNetwork Asian of the Year Awards.2009 AsiaNetwork Asian of the Year Awards.



James was awarded First Prize in the Singapore National Art Competition (1974); the "Morning Mist" Special Award, Ministry of Culture, Singapore (1981); the Consolation Prize in the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Art Competition, Singapore (1984).  He was invited to the Second Young Artists Exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the National Museum, Singapore (1984); represented Singapore in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Singapore Artists Art Exhibition" in Yokohama, Kobe and Sapporo, Japan (1988)   ; selected to exhibit at the Singapore Festival of Art (1988); and sponsored by Shell Corporation to give a seminar and demonstration at their special Culture Program, Singapore (1989).


Canada Post marks the Lunar New Year with a new collectable stamp. For the Year of the Dragon, the agency issued a pair of stamps designed by OCAD U alumnus and Faculty of Design Instructor Louis Fishauf and calligrapher James Tan.




James gives lectures and demonstrations on the history and art of Chinese brush painting to small and large groups in such settings as the National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore), and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  He also gives demonstrations annually at the "Art in Action" festival organized by the Art Department of The School of Economic Science, London.

1974 / 2001 Have been teaching both ancient and Ling-Nan School of Chinese brush paintings techniques for 27 years in San Francisco, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and London. 2004-2006  lectures in Vancouver Academy of Art, Vancouver Canada.

My courses have been comprehensive, including history and specific painting techniques. Students come from many countries, including the United States, Singapore, England, Germany, Australia, Taiwan and China



                                                                                                                                       My Bichon Frise Mei Mei and JJ and Gaby


  • 2003     Asian Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC Canada More ...... >>

  • 2003     Vancouver Public Library, BC Canada   More ...... >>

  • 1995     Chinese Museum, Melbourne, Australia. More ...... >>

  • 1994     Warwick Gallery, Beaconsfield, England.

  • 1993     Warwick Gallery, Beaconsfield, England.

  • 1993     Old Luxter's Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, England.  More ...... >>

  • 1992     National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.     More ...... >>

  • 1990     The Empress Place Museum. Singapore.   More ...... >>

  • 1988     Della Butcher Gallery, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1988     National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.  More ...... >>  

  • 1988     Represented Singapore in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Singapore Artists Art Exhibition" in Yokohama,  Kobe and Sapporo, Japan (1988)   More ...... >>

  • 1985     Gallery of Fine Art, Singapore   More ...... >>

  • 1985     Second Young Artist's Exhibition Singapore  

  • 1982     Military Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan.    More ...... >>

  • 1982     Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1981     National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.     More ...... >>

  • 1981     Gallery of Fine Art, Singapore.   More ...... >>

  • 1981     Art House Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   More ...... >>

  • 1981     Penang Museum, Penang, Malaysia.   More ...... >>

  • 1981     Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1980     The President Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.  More ...... >>

  • 1980     Exhibition Hall, Ipoh, Malaysia.  More ...... >>

  • 1980     Art House Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  More ...... >>

  • 1980     National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1980     Gallery of Fine Art, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1979     Asia Foundation, San Francisco, California, USA.   More ...... >>

  • 1979     Chinese Culture Centre, San Francisco, California, USA  More ...... >>

  • 1979     Renaissance Gallery, Ukiah, California, USA.  More ...... >>

  • 1979     Michelle B. Babcock, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.  More ...... >>

  • 1979     Jolo Pottery & Gallery, Sanoma, California,

  • 1977     East Art Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA. More ...... >>

  • 1977     Chinese Chamber of Commerce Exhibition Hall, Singapore.  More ...... >>

  • 1977     ETC Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.  More ...... >>

  • 1976     Renaissance Gallery, Ukiah, California, USA. More ...... >>

  • 1975     East Wind Art gallery, San Francisco, California, USA. More ...... >>

  • 1974     Penang, Malaysia.   More ...... >>

  • 1974     Ipoh, Malaysia.   More ...... >>

  • 1974     The Malaysia Art Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More ...... >>

  • 1974     First Solo in Singapore organized by The Society of Chinese Artist.  More ...... >>


  • 1970-2000 Singapore, San Francisco, Sacramento California USA, Dubai, Bahrain, Yokohama, Kobe and Sapporo Japan, Sydney Australia, Germany, Vancouver, Victoria & Calgary.

  • 2000 Stephen Lowe art gallery - Victoria and Calgary

  • 2001 Stephen Lowe art gallery - Victoria and Calgary

  • 2002 Stephen Lowe art gallery - Victoria and Calgary

  • 2005 Yiyou Yaji Painting, Calligraphy and Seal Carving Exhibition (Works by Lau Wai-yin, Nathan Szeto, James Tan, Ma Chi-ping, Hung Yu-ying, Ko Ku-chung and Fung Kin) On-Tak Cheung Exhibition Hall.

  • 2006 - 2009 Chinese Canadian Artists Federation in Vancouver Annual Exhibition.


His works are found in public and private collections around the world. Owners include: the Emir of Bahrain; the Arab Emirates; the Foreign Office (Dubai); the Gulf International, UIC, UOB and DBS Banks (Singapore); BP Petroleum; the Crown Prince, Marina Mandarin, Oriental and Glass Hotels (Singapore); the Singapore Trade Commission (Taiwan); the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and Defenses (Singapore); Vogel Park (Hamburg, Germany); Japan Fleet Services (Singapore); Hotel Istana (Kuala Lumpur), the Penang Museum (Malaysia).






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