Celia P. Tan: Abstractionist & Visionary


Our heartfelt congratulations and overwhelming admiration goes to our kababayan Celia Flor P. Tan from Mayhaanon of Odiongan, a small town in Romblon, for another successful summer vernissage in the Old Town of Stockholm last June 2017. Celia says “It is a great honor for me to be featured in Roots&Wings. May my words and my artworks enrich you. Never give up even in a stormy sea."

Please tell us - how did you become an artist?

How I became an artist is hard to grasp even up to this day. We are all artists in a way. Perhaps it is better to ask - when did I start painting? I will have to answer bluntly and frankly. A bad beginning can have a good ending. I was in seclusion in a psychiatric hospital for some quaint medical reasons. I found myself in the hobby room while trying to clear my mind fighting the ‘demons’ so I started painting, coloring, drawing, whatever. But I had to stop when the nurse told me "enough" because it was already very late and they want me to get some sleep. Yes, we all have different ways to express our moods. Mine is to find myself and remove the monotony of the day. There is a voice telling me to explore a new territory, to move in a new direction but not so easy because feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem and very poor self-confidence stand on the way. It is a long struggle. But I have to carry on. A negative mind became positive through Art. Therefore I can say that Art is therapeutic.

You are now considered a professional artist with regular exhibitions in Stockholm. What did you do before this?

I am a Nurse by profession and worked in a prestigious international company in the Philippines. Then I went to work in Libya after a classmate-friend persuaded me. In Libya I met Love and it brought me all the way to Sweden. Have you read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elisabeth Gilbert? It is about me, ha ha..

What motivates you to paint the way you do?

It is both a decision and a choice. Art is a prolongation of my existence. It is through Art I can breath. It keeps me on a productive and positive track. And I do not need a license to practice art. I paint not to impress but to get impressed with my own achievement. I do not aim to be a Van Gogh or a Monet. I just want to be myself. My art makes my heart sing, it makes me dance. It connects me to my higher self. I lose track of time that I sometimes forget to eat. Creating from my intuition can be scary but energizing. I am an artist with determination, perseverance, always yearning to take another direction, another dimension - away from realism. Did I really paint this? – I would often wonder. Let my heart and soul speak now rather than only my mind and my ability.

Do you need to be inspired or be in the certain mood to create?

Not really. To create art is a "must" for me. I have to paint. To commune with my Higher Power to direct my day. I think I create beautifully when I am suffering, when my heart is in anguish, when I cannot sleep. When I am inspired and in the better mood. I spend these precious moments with my children and grandchildren because these moods come and go.

Do you have any favorite artist?

I am a big fan of Jackson Pollock because we seem to have striking similarities. He is an Abstractionist and a Visionary which I am too. May I just share this quote with R&W readers? "What images we can have, one might say, depends who is doing the imagining" - John Hospers, from An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis

Thanks so much Celia for a most rewarding conversation and for sharing your artworks with your kababayans. We wish you all the very best.


A quarterly online magazine for Filipinos in Europe, published by Rachel Publishing Company in Stockholm, Sweden. Its aim is (1) to uplift, create awareness and appreciation of Filipino culture and lifestyle (2) to serve as a bridge to lessen the gap between the expatriate communities of Filipinos living in various parts of Europe (3) to highlight touristic and historical places of interest in our home country in order to encourage and enhance local travel, tourism and commerce.

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