Peer Into the Studio of L.A. Painter Tahnee Lonsdale, Whose Cat Helps Remind Her That Sometimes It’s Okay to Rest
Lonsdale has a show opening this week at Night Gallery in Los Angeles.
British painter Tahnee Lonsdale is something of an heir to the female spiritual abstractionists and Surrealists of yesteryear, creating dreamy, mystical landscapes that draw on the language of geometry and figuration.
Her lush colors—jewel-like greens, bold blues, cool corals—are achieved by layering oil paint on the canvas.
The Los Angeles-based artist’s new solo show, “Tahnee Lonsdale: True Romance,” is her first with Night Gallery, and also includes a new series of soft sculptures. Collectively, the work is inspired by the concept of romance not as intimacy between two people, but as a spiritual experience linked to a higher power.
We caught up with Lonsdale from her studio about her astrological influences, the beauty of working alone, and how sugar fuels her work.
Can you send us a snap of the most indispensable item(s) in your studio and tell us why you can’t live without it?
Headphones of any kind, but recently AirPods, are essential. I need music to paint. My Union Jack cushion, stolen from my sister’s house, for kneeling when I paint. My knees are so creaky now. Dark chocolate peanut butter Kind bars. Sugar gives me ideas and makes me happy. My cat Joey, for reminding me that it’s okay to rest.
What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
I’m putting the finishing touches on a sculpture I’m making for my show at Night Gallery. It’s beautiful and I’m so excited. I just ordered a new batch of canvases for my next show. There’s always a mixture of fear and excitement when they arrive. I’ll be prepping them in a layer of acrylic. Either green, yellow, or orange. It’s easy, mindless work. Kind of like writing the title and date before you write an essay.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I like to be alone. The energy in the studio needs to be mine. For the majority of time painting, I’ll listen to music. Recent favorites: Valerie June, Nicola Cruz, Nina Simone. But every now and then I need silence. Like a palette cleanser. This is when I do my thinking.
When I am lost, blocked, or exhausted, I’ll listen to a podcast or meditate. It all depends on my mood and energetically what wants to be taken in and put out. There is always a path and it’s not often mine to choose, and not worth fighting against.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
I don’t tap into the art world a huge amount on social media. I’ve been careful to curate what I see, and what I let into my space. Most of the profiles I interact with are spiritual in nature. Poets, healers, and anything astrology floats my boat. I love @yung_pueblo, @__nitch, @tealswanofficial, @chaninicholas, @rupikaur_, and @vexking.
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get unstuck?
I leave the studio. Staying and forcing is like having insomnia and staying in bed with your eyes shut. It never works. I always feel the tug towards nature, but at these times it’s so incredibly important. I’ll either head to the beach or the Santa Monica mountains. Always on my own, never with music. I just move my body forward one step at a time. I also meditate. A lot. Write. Read. And watch tarot pulls on YouTube!
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
I admire freedom from a desired outcome. Tapping into an emotion. Connection with humanity. Fearlessness.
Despise is a really strong word. But I do struggle to love digital work.
What images or objects do you look at while you work? Share your view from behind the canvas or your desktop—wherever you spend the most time.
I have two studios. One at home in Venice, and one downtown. They are very different environments.
At home in Venice is where I live with my two kids. I see them through my window. They sneak through the garden to come and find me, as I often disappear to paint when they aren’t looking. Through my window is a huge pomegranate tree, blue sky rimmed with palm trees. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful.
On the flip side, my downtown studio is surrounded by metal scrap yards. There is an ever-present smell of trash permeating the air around me. The sound of metal being crushed is a constant soundtrack. The sky is hazy with smog. I can see the skyscrapers of downtown through a dirty window. The sun when it sets through said window is deep orange, and casts an intense dramatic light across the studio.
I live a double life, which I am very grateful for.
What is the last exhibition you saw that made an impression on you and why?
I recently saw Phyllida Barlow at Hauser and Wirth [in Los Angeles]. Her immersive sculptures are all consuming. As the viewer you exist within them. The humanness of them is palpable. The ugliness and the beauty exist side by side.
“Tahnee Lonsdale: True Romance” will be on view at Night Gallery, 2050 Imperial Street, Los Angeles, California, May 14–June 18, 2022.
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