Artist Brendan Lee Satish Tang takes inspiration from his international upbringing. Born in Ireland to Trinidadian parents, Tang has studied in the United States and Canada, where he is a naturalized citizen. Due to the diversity of his living experiences, Tang is no stranger to culture shock—a concept reflected in The Swimmers series.
In this collection of detailed drawings, Tang reimagines traditional blue and white ceramic plates as undulating swimming pools. Featuring people taking a dip in Ming Dynasty porcelain, 18th-century English earthenware, and Delftware (or Dutch tin-glazed pottery), this series symbolically explores the ways in which people immerse themselves in cultures from around the world.
“The feeling of culture shock is familiar experience for many,” Tang explains. “The term ‘a fish out water’ is an analogy often used to describe these mixed emotions. The Swimmers drawing series plays with the idea that we are the fish, are always finding our way through our greater culture.”
Each plate-pool hybrid features a pair of swimmers. Tang notes that this was a deliberate decision, as including two people per pool emphasizes the idea that “we learn traditions and cultural practices from one another; these things are not hard-wired.”As they swim and splash in the symbolic patterns, they appear unaware of the complexities that surround them. This nonchalant attitude can be inferred as either a type of ignorance or a sense of optimism, perfectly capturing the “mixed emotions” we feel as we wade through uncharted territory.