Q&A: Tahnee Lonsdale

Artists are known for seeing life through their own unique way and our current discovery certainly does just that. Tahnee Lonsdale is the LA-based, London-bred artist who uses her paintbrush to demonstrate a whole host of themes - from femininity to motherhood and self-discovery. Tipped by The Saatchi Gallery in 2012 as one of “tomorrow’s Damien Hirsts”, she has exhibited at Somerset House and even had her work turned into a range of scarves for Matches. Her use of colour and shape got us hooked, and we had to get in touch to pick her brains and find out more…

Had you always seen yourself going into the art world and wanted to be an artist?

Strangely no. It was always writing when I was small. I wrote endless stories and poems. I don’t think I was very good at art. My older sister was an amazing artist and I always assumed that painting was her thing. But then it became apparent that it wasn’t important for a drawing to look like it’s subject, so I suddenly became interested. When a vase of flowers is not expected to look like the vase of flowers, a door opens.

What sorts of themes do you cover in your work?

It used to be imagined narratives with underlying themes of urgency and escape, now the themes have moved towards gender roles, what it is to be a woman and a feminist, domestic life (in all its mundaneness) and ultimately motherhood.

Spread, Tahnee Lonsdale
Spread, Tahnee Lonsdale
Milk and Crackers, Tahnee Lonsdale
Milk and Crackers, Tahnee Lonsdale

We love your use and variation of colour - how would you describe the use of it in your art?

Colour is integral to my work. It’s not an accident that I use so much pink. It is the colour given to us as little girls, it’s the colour of flesh and skin and lips. When babies are born they are little pink balls. And on the flip side there’s blue, a colour I also like to use, and often against the soft, fleshy pink I so love. Blue is a masculine strong colour, cold and in the shadows. I like the juxtaposition of these two colours together. My recent paintings are imbued with a bleached out California feel, so reminiscent of the first moment I touched down in LA for the first time. But often there is not much pre-thought, it is a natural progression not planned before hand, but during the process. Layering colour upon colour until I hit the right tone or shade.

Who are some of your artistic inspirations? Any up-and-comers we should be looking out for?

Since I fell for Instagram I have been opened up to a whole world of undiscovered art. Not necessarily undiscovered by the industry, but by me. There are so many talented artists out there and I feel I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It’s exciting but overwhelming as an artist myself. Some names that come up are Scott Anderson, Jennie Jieun Lee, Ad Minoliti, Jamian Juliano-Villani and Rosson Crow. I could keep reeling names off but that’s pretty dull. I love the classics - Matisse, Bacon and Diebenkorn have been huge inspiration. Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series are monumentally Californian.

Floss, Tahnee Lonsdale
Floss, Tahnee Lonsdale

Would you say your work tells a story? Or is it up to the viewer’s imagination to piece together the story?

I think it’s difficult to unravel the story through just one painting, it’s like looking at a single photograph and trying to work out someone’s life story. It’s looking at a collection, or all my work in chronological order that tells the story. It’s my life unraveling on canvas. From my days as a troubled teenager, the disillusion of early marriage and the anxieties of motherhood. My work has jumped around a lot in terms of themes and styles as I try to find myself and my rhythm. I feel more settled now and I think I know what I’m trying to say, the work has slowed to a pace of understanding, although I’m still searching. This is the story you’ll discover.

What’s the best thing about living in LA?

Definitely the weather. So much piercing blue sky.

And the worst?

Being so far from my family.

Acrylic on canvas, Tahnee Lonsdale
Acrylic on canvas, Tahnee Lonsdale

You’re originally from London? How has this influenced you?

I think my influences come from where I am at the time. While I was in London my work was much more architectural, geometric and ordered. It was like I was boxed in, tightly controlling all sides of my life, there were glimmers of peace and greenery through cracks but I was unable to get there. Since moving to LA it’s like I’m on the other side of these windows, physically I’ve escaped these walls and there is a lot more fluidity in this freedom. But the focus becomes much more about being a woman and a mother, how these roles effect me and my response to them. The colours are also much truer to the LA palette.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a contemporary female artist?

Not being taken seriously. People are always surprised when they see my work, as if they’d been expecting something disappointing. There is also the expectation that you will stop painting once you become a mother, and surprise when you don’t. On the flip side, I think in some ways I’m at an advantage being a woman, there is a huge resource in motherhood. Wherever there is struggle great things happen.

Thanks Tahnee! Check out more of her work here.

Primp, Tahnee Lonsdale
Primp, Tahnee Lonsdale

All images: Tahnee Lonsdale

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