Artistic Enlightenment

On a hot, summer day, artist Tan Swie Hian, 60, stands poised before a four-story-high canvas in the middle of St. Marcos Square, surrounded by Venice's celestial domes. Suddenly, Tan leaps toward the immense sheet, wielding his brush like a swordsman as he swiftly inscribes an immense poem; inky Chinese characters that tell of sleeping pillows and dreamy, butterfly wings. Singapore's most famous artist is doing at the Venice Biennale what he has long done back home in East Asia: combining East and West, through multiple disciplines, with the explosive precision of a bombmaker.

In Singapore, a...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!