Tamen (他们) is an artist collective composed of two young artists, Lai Shengyu (赖圣予) and Yang Xiaogang (杨晓钢), who were born in Hunan Province in 1978 and 1979, respectively. The group is alternatively referred to as “Ta Men” and “They”, which is the English translation of their name. As a collective, they reject notions of self and individuality in art by co-painting each work and collaborating in a manner that draws attention away from the individual.
Tamen’s work focuses on the psychological effects of China’s new affluence and its contemporary state of being. Through works of oil on canvas or digital photography, scenes of big-city China or serene nature are flush with symbols to visually emphasize the tension and collisions that Tamen sees as the constant revolution in China’s society. Adopting both montage and Pop Art forms, Tamen plays with the spatial relationships between landscapes, architecture, objects and figures to highlight the curious simultaneity of China’s past and present.
Reality is juxtaposed with illusion and tranquility with anxiety. Adding a healthy dose of ridicule and incredulity to the mix, Tamen criticizes the human appetence hiding behind images and falsehood and the sheen of modern affluence. By holding a mirror to the objects and symbols to which contemporary society has attached itself to, Tamen uses its novel visual language of surrealism and critical realism to offer a philosophical analysis of man’s inner feelings in this new world – those of bitterness, solitude, and distance.