Found Things: The Flea Market Voyages of Howard Tan

June 19, 2016

Hi guys, welcome back to my blog. Today I'll be sharing photos and my thoughts from this photo exhibition I visited recently called Found Things: The Flea Market Voyages of Howard Tan.

I had dimsum with Fufy, Gerald and Euri the other day and the three of us decided to chill at Bricklin Cafe beside Hin Bus Depot afterwards. Hin Bus Depot is a space that has a lot of artwork on its walls and its decor outside itself, but they also have frequent art exhibitions. While we were there, I was lucky enough to catch this particular exhibition.

I took an image of his biography/profile on the wall but I accidentally deleted it. From what I gathered, Howard Tan is a photographer and Found Things is his first exhibition. They feature images and finds from his journey to several flea markets around Malaysia including Ipoh and Penang. It shows the various items people usually think are "junk" in a different light, showcasing their colours, themes and stories.

In an interview with MalayMailOnline, Howard Tan said that the whole idea behind the exhibition is to showcase the wonders that can be found in flea markets. 

There are three themes to the exhibition, perception, art and backgrounds but to me, the exhibition was separated into 4 parts: the black wall, the colour schemes, the mixed frames and the calligraphy sets. I'll explain why I named them so along the way.

First up, the black wall:

The black wall has various items that the artist found in various flea markets. There are stamps, swords and handwritten letters to name a few.

I found this set of stamps quite intriguing. Back in high school, I learned that there are a lot of Chinese characters, more than 50,000 if I'm not mistaken. I know not all characters are used, but still, there's a lot. I wonder what this stamp collection was for. It must have been for something specific like a government official's office, a bank or something. It kinda reminded me of those old newspaper printers I saw in documentaries, but there are far too little words in this set (plus most of the words are damn complicated that I couldn't even read them).

This one on the other hand, looked like it belonged to a clothing manufacturer or something.

These stamps reminded me of a cartoon I watched in my grandmother's house when I was a kid or one of my dad's old comics, but I can't quite remember the title.

To the right of the black wall is another black wall with pictures. I called theme the color schemes because in the middle of these pictures are some of the main colours in that specific picture. This was kinda interesting and reminded me of those Pantone posts that trippy Tumblr people usually post.

These images are of spreads in flea markets/pasar pagi. They're mostly random stuff, but I've definitely seen them before. I remember Ipoh in particular had this kind of flea market every Sunday morning around The Store and Riverfront where you could legit find every kind of knick knack you could find. From porcelain to old shoes, that place was a hoarder's dream come true hahaha.

I found this one the prettiest because of it's pastel colours:

Next are the mixed frames. These are printed images laid on top of another material to create a mixed texture kind of feel.

This one for example used an old Chinese Almanac as a background a picture of Chinese stamps. The stamps kinda looks like those signature stamps that I've seen in dramas.

Other materials used were maps (above) and sacks (below).

Lastly, the calligraphy sets. These are pictures with Chinese characters painted in gold on top of them. The words are kind of the "themes" of the pictures. The one below means "reselling"

The one below means "to change hands"

The one on the right below means "life" or can also mean "lifestyle"

And these below read "culture", "time" and "history"

Booklets are available for sale at RM40 per booklet in the exhibition

And there are also free postcards available.

Overall I found the exhibition interesting and nostalgic (because it made me reminisce on my high school days when I learned Chinese and reminded me of the old, small town vibe of Ipoh).

If any of you are interested, definitely drop by Hin Bus before the 28th to actually see the exhibition in real life. The pictures are great and will definitely let you see the artsy and beautiful side of flea markets.

The artist also left his name card behind:

As always, thanks for reading!

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