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Architect Rene Tan Picks Up The Paintbrush Again

The Co-Founder of RT&Q Architects now creates artworks for clients whose homes he designs

If you have visited some of the recently completed houses by RT+Q Architects, you might have noticed that each of them has a colourful, abstract expressionist painting hanging on a wall.

“How did all these homeowners end up buying an artwork from the same artist?” you might wonder.

In fact, they did not; these are pieces created by Rene Tan, Co-Founder of the architecture practice.

After 40 years of neglecting the paintbrush, Tan decided to pick it up again last year, while cooped up at home during the circuit breaker brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had time to un-think and re-think how we could be more productive and creative,” shares Tan.

“One way was to utilise and optimise a supposedly inherent skill we as architects have – our ability to draw and paint – and perhaps contribute our artwork to the buildings we do.

“So I thought I would re-surface from this 40-year ‘premature retirement‘ and start painting again.”

He was also spurred by the notion to persuade his colleagues to rediscover their talent in drawing and painting – the very same skills that led many of them to architecture school and their chosen profession.

Inspiration for each comes from an obvious source: The house Tan designs.

Look at an artwork and it is possible to pick out features like staircases, landscaping, windows, roof forms and even wine bottles, representing the good life.

“The idea is for homeowners, whom these paintings are for, to be able to recognise elements of their house and understand and relate to it; each painting is unique and particular to each house.

“It complements the designs by making allusions to the architecture we do.”

For Tan, he also derives joy from contributing to the creation of the artwork.

His choice of medium is acrylic on canvas, since acrylic is versatile and “forgiving” in that it allows him to repaint.

Its water-based properties allow for a watercolour-like effect too.

These he creates after doing mock-ups using colour pencils.

Given the quality of the pieces, it is surprising to learn that he was never formally trained, apart from a few art classes taken in college as part of his Architecture major.

“I actually grew-up home-schooled in art, and had lots of paintings around me.

“My dad used to sculpt and paint and to this day, is a source of inspiration for me.”

And while he did plenty of painting in his younger days, he eventually stopped, distracted first by school and then the busy schedule that practising architects have.

“Perhaps it was also a momentary ‘loss of self’,” he reflects.

Whatever the reason, Tan’s clients are definitely glad he has picked up painting again.

Their reactions, upon seeing the works, have all been very positive and welcoming.

“Comments have ranged from ‘very intriguing’ and ‘what a nice idea’, to ‘where can we hang it’ and ‘didn’t realise you could paint too’,” he shares.

We say it is also a wonderful, personalised touch that further sets Tan and RT&Q Architects apart from the rest of the competition.

Low Shi Ping
03 May 2021