Diagnosed with autism at age 3, J. A. Tan continues to work at his art. (Facebook)


Artist returns to his ‘happy place’

By Ted Alcuitas

He may not be the world’s most famous artist yet but Jose Antonio (J.A.) Tan certainly can count among history’s most inspiring personalities on the autism spectrum as an inspiration.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Tan was diagnosed as a high functioning child with autism before his third birthday. He moved to Vancouver in 2006 to study at  Emily Carr University of Art+Design, where he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in May 2010.

Since then he has been working as a visual artist in Vancouver, mounting solo shows and doing group shows in Vancouver, Canada, California, New York, Miami, London, U.K., Beijing, China, and Manila, Philippines.

This year he comes back to his beloved city to mount his second solo work – “Return to Your Happy Place.” His first exhibition at the Hycroft was in 2015 entitled “Amazing Journeys.”

He says he was fortunate to go on amazing journeys throughout the world since then,  inspiring him to do new works.

He invites audiences to travel with him in the actual places and/or travels in his mind in this exciting new work which opened at the Hycroft Galley at 1489 McRae Ave. in Vancouver on November 6 and runs through the 30th.

J.A. Tan’s ‘Return to your Happy Place’ opened at The Hycroft on November 6. (Facebook)

A high point in his young career was having one of his paintings chosen from among 200+ submissions, issued as a United Nation’s stamp in April 2012 as part of World Autism Awareness and met then-Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Tan’s ‘Victory’ was chosen as the United Nations stamp in 2012. (Facebook)

Of his art he says: “I have come to the realization that I have always used art as a way of helping myself bring out my thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I consider it an integral part of my existence as each work is a personal journey of myself with myself, and myself with the world, bringing a feeling of peace and happiness since things become clearer to me through the images and visual pictures before me.

Coping with everyday life as an artist challenged with autism, I strive to make a difference in the world. Through my work, I hope to make the world less of a mystery and less scary for everyone. I hope to be able to create images of how someone like me thinks, feels, and interacts with people.”

He was one of several visual artists featured in Mainly Mozart & The Mind Events 2019 in May 30 – June 2 in San Diego, California.

Tan recently completed an animation project through collaboration with The Art of Autism and the University of Exeter in their Exploring Diagnosis project.