Tahnee Lonsdale discusses female empowerment & life in opposing forces

Tahnee Lonsdale

Lonsdale discusses a cathartic, autobiographical practice, female empowerment & opposing forces, and surprising, serendipitous inspiration on the streets of Los Angeles

To start, tell us about yourself. What’s your background & how did you get into making art?

I grew up in the rolling hills of southern England with my 3 sisters, mum and dad. we weren’t a particularly arty family although attitudes were liberal and we were encouraged to do what we loved. For me this was writing, and that was what I wanted to do growing up. It was only when I got to about 14 and literature became less about your own ideas and more about the ideas of others, that i was drawn more towards art. I had an amazing art teacher who was very enthusiastic. I’m not even sure I was that great at art, but I loved the freedom and it just got to the point where I didn’t want to do anything else. so that is what I did, and i haven’t stopped since.

What are you currently working on? Describe your most recent body of work.

I’m working on a new series of painting about sex, love and female empowerment. I feel very much that life is in opposing forces, especially as a woman. Softness and strength, independence and vulnerability. As a women we are asked to straddle the masculine and the feminine just to keep up. These paintings are a reminder that whilst we strive for female empowerment, we are allowed to be afraid.

Tahnee Lonsdale, We Kneel - 70

Tahnee Lonsdale, We Kneel - 70" x 64" - spray paint and oil on canvas

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Posing Yellow Figure' - 83

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Posing Yellow Figure' - 83" x 75" - oil on canvas

Where do you find inspiration when starting a new body of work?

Most of my work is autobiographical. You can trace my life’s ups and downs like a diary entry. But often it’s hard for me to see this at the time and I look to outside influences to pull these manifestations out. My most recent inspiration has been discovering the wealth of dumped furniture on the sidewalks of LA. There are some serious treasures to be found! I was interested in the intersection between domesticity and sex. I felt like a voyeur photographing these assemblages of stacked sofas and armchairs, so human in there vulnerability, and so intimate in the way they lay upon one another. This lead to a whole series of paintings about gender roles, sex, marriage, submission and love.

I feel very
much that
life is in

Tahnee Lonsdale

Do you work in distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I used to create work in a very broad, elongated way. Making work continuously and without much of an end game, except to produce work. But recently as I have more shows/projects, the work is naturally being made in more of a project to project basis. Which has helped to make my shows more cohesive and the work feels stronger and more focused. I don’t think there’s a right way to do things though, and if i didn’t have shows on the horizon, I would still keep making the work in a continuous fashion.

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Not Sorry' -70

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Not Sorry' -70" x 64" - spray paint and oil on canvas We Kneel

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Love and Support

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Love and Support" - 64" x 51" - oil on canvas

Describe a day in your studio. What is your schedule like, how do you divide your time?

The day always starts with tea! and procrastination! I do love working in the mornings though and on mornings when i don’t have my kids, tend to head to the studio with my tea and work in my Pyjamas until mid day. Then i feel like a slob and go for a run to clear my head. Since i work from home and have the studio all to myself, it can get pretty intense and I sometimes feel my brain turning a little manic, I force myself to get out of the studio for an hour or two a day to clear my head, and I’ll often take a day a week to see shows or do studio visits with other artists. I also recently took up TM (transcendental meditation) to help with crippling anxiety, so I try very hard to make time for meditation twice a day. It’s amazing once I do it but tough to force myself to stop. Days where I have my kids are very different. I have a cut off point where I have to transition from artist into responsible mother and do things like laundry, cooking and cleaning, not my favourite things! but these mundane, domestic activities are so much part of my work and also a reminder to get out of my head. Once kids are in bed I head back to my studio. One of the downsides (or upsides depending on how you look at it) of working from home is that you never stop working!

Lonsdale's studio

Lonsdale's studio

Lonsdale's studio

Lonsdale's studio

Lonsdale's studio

Lonsdale's studio

Given our current cultural climate, the importance of artists is undeniable, we need them now more than ever. Do you find the social responsibility intimidating at all or does this help fuel your work?

I feel like I’m part of a greater force and that I’m one voice amongst many, creating strength in numbers. So it’s a shared responsibility and there is a feeling of community about it. It’s not so much intimidating as uplifting and motivating.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced in your practice?

Confidence, or lack of, is a big one. I think Instagram, as much as it has helped me to promote my work, has also been a bit of a hinderance. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and assume everyone is way ahead of you. It’s so important to remain true to your practice and know that you are just where you’re meant to be. Although a healthy amount of motivation is good also!

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Chameleon' - 52

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Chameleon' - 52" x 53" - oil on canvas

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of art making?

The process is very cathartic. It’s kind of like silent therapy. And then to sit back and see what you’ve done and the struggles you’ve overcome, is extremely rewarding. Especially if it’s been a particularly tough painting. To be able to show your work is also majorly rewarding. That a gallery thinks your work is good enough to take a risk on, that’s big.

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Big Spoon, Little Spoon' -70

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Big Spoon, Little Spoon' -70" x 64" - spray paint and oil on canvas

What is one art related book and non-art related book that you recommend other artists read?

A friend gave me ‘Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt’. A book about the friendship between these two amazing artists and the letters they wrote to each other. it particularly highlights the struggles Hesse overcame and the self-doubt. A really beautiful, enlightening read. Non-art related i would say anything by Haruki Murakami, particularly ‘Wind-Up Bird Chronicles’. That inspired a whole collection of paintings.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I go to a lot of openings around LA, and am introduced to artists through other artists. There’s a big network, and everybody seems to know everybody. It was kind of tough at first coming to LA and not knowing anyone, but it’s a very welcoming community.

How did you get your first exhibition?

For the first 4 years after graduating i would put on my own shows. Then i met Roberta Moore though a mutual friend, she gave me my first gallery show. After that a collector recommended me to my New York gallery , De Buck, and they gave me my first NY solo show. I guess it’s always been down to recommendations, from other artists, collectors or advisors. It’s tricky because galleries don’t like you to approach them, so you kind of have to do a funny dance in front of them and pretend like you don’t care, haha!!!

Tahnee Lonsdale, '4 In A Bed' - 70

Tahnee Lonsdale, '4 In A Bed' - 70" x 64" - spray paint and oil on canvas

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Awkward Romance' - 83

Tahnee Lonsdale, 'Awkward Romance' - 83" x 75" - oil on canvas

What methods do you find most productive in promoting your work?

Personally I use Instagram. It’s free, easy and accessible to all.

What advice would you give to your younger self? How about to other artists? Are there lessons you have learned through your commitment to your practice which you think might be of value to others?

I guess the only advice I have for my younger self or other artists is not to stop. Just keep making, and don’t be disheartened if you’re not happy with your work or if you don’t get any response from galleries. Eventually persistence will prevail. Oh, and try to enjoy the process. haha! that one is easier said than done.

Tahnee Lonsdale is an artist based in Los Angeles. She was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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