An Interview with the LA-based Artist Tahnee Lonsdale at De Buck Gallery, New York

Flora Ogilvy, Arteviste, August 25 2016

Tahnee Lonsdale is an LA-based, British painter known for her bold, eye-catching canvases. We found each other on Instagram and later met at the Victoria Miro gallery in East London to see the Yayoi Kusama retrospective before following up with an interview at De Buck Gallery, New York where her exhibition Pipe Dreams and Rabbit Holes has been met with critical acclaim. I fell for Tahnee's work, because of the subdued pastel palettes, her innovate use of negative space and of course its raw energy. She draws from found objects and borrows colour palettes from artists like Richard Diebenkorn and Francis Bacon as well as emerging artists she discovers at degree shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Now based in LA, any artwork featuring a swimming pool catches the converted California girl’s eye.


Tahnee's previous exhibitions in London have caused tremors in the art world at respected galleries like Rook & Raven Gallery, Saatchi Gallery and Somerset House. That combined with her strong Instagram following, presence on Artsy and she's fast becoming known for her original exploration of the abstraction within realism created from negative spaces. Wandering around the Chelsea Galleries in New York  Tahnee and I discussed her equally positive experience of the LA art scene where she's recently set up her new studio. But she's not settling down, in fact she's also thinking of doing another solo show at Roberta Moore Gallery, London - that’s if she doesn’t dive into an MA or Palm Springs artists’ residency first. 


Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?

It was always writing when I was small, I wrote endless stories and poems. I don’t think I was very good at art, but then it became apparent that it wasn’t important for a drawing to look like it’s subject, so then I became interested. When a vase of flowers can become something entirely different, a door opened for me as an artist.


What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?

I'm pretty sure that I haven’t made it yet.


Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I start with a notion of something important to me - a niggle or a protest. Then I add an object(s) or significant material and create a series of mini sculptures. I photograph these and work into or over them until I have something unrecognisable. The negative spaces are interesting, and I often use these as an initial composition. Then comes the colour.


f you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?

1970’s California. 


How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

It’s in the eye of the beholder.


Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?

Anything by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. I actually made an entire collection of work around his novels. My favorite one was Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.


What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Time in my studio. And tea too. 


Can you offer some insight into the ever-evolving LA art scene? 

I’m pretty fresh to the scene, but like LA, it’s pretty sprawling. Each area of the city has its own scene. Downtown feels very hipster and young with lots of warehouse-style spaces and artist-run galleries. Culver City has a very established scene, which is more grown-up and less daring. In LA, I feel like anything goes and anyone who dares wins.


What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?



Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?

I think that true artistic expression can exist anywhere. It would be small-minded of me to imagine otherwise.


What do you wish every child were taught?

To do what they love and love what they do (and be kind).


Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?



What is your favourite art gallery in LA and why?

The new Hauser & Wirth in downtown LA is amazing. The opening show of female sculptors was incredible and the space itself is beautiful. So much of its past life peeks through the walls.


Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

I'm currently working on a collaboration with an artist called Celina Teague. She’s based in the UK so it will have to be a transatlantic exchange. We are both working on paintings simultaneously and then posting them to each other to be finished.


What is your daily routine when working?

The moment I walk into my studio I put the kettle on. Once the tea is made I assess the previous day's work. I just sit and stare, drink tea and stare. After half an hour of this I start work, and I don’t stop until 5pm when I wash up my brushes and head home to the kids. 


What has been your most inspiring travel experience?

I travelled a lot after school. Hiking in the north of India and Nepal at the foot of the Himalayas. It was so beautiful, I daren’t go back incase my memories are dashed by something different. But in reality it was the short drive through the Acton industrial estate to my London studio that has inspired me the most.


What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?

To keep working and producing. Don’t stop. 


Do you find that LA’s culture inspires or influences your art?

It's less about the culture and more about the place itself. The wide open spaces and endless blue horizon. Flat, square buildings and painted signage. The colors are so bleached. 


Why do you love what you do?

I just do, there’s no way to explain the feeling I get when I paint. Freedom? Stillness?