1883 Magazine
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In a world where gender stereotypes still hold sway and women are shouting to be heard, Tahnee Lonsdale’s new exhibition, Furnished, comes as a timely reminder that the road to gender equality remains a long one.

Beautifully crude and fleshy, and tinged with wit and sexual innuendos, the paintings that make up Furnished reveal a universal struggle, that of women who are caught between the need to conform to social and familial expectations, and the urge to follow their own inclinations. In these paintings where the artist’s signature semi-abstract style gives way to figuration, domestic objects and childhood artefacts have been removed from their original purpose to become archetypes exposing the pervasiveness of gender as an organising category in the shaping of female identity in the social and family environment.

1883 met Tahnee ahead of the opening of the show to discuss her work and the creative process behind it.

Hello Tahnee, your new exhibition opens on 10th May with Roberta Moore Contemporary at Herrick Gallery; can you tell us about the idea behind Furnished?

Furnished is a reference to domesticity. ‘Fully Furnished!’ is a phrase we heard a lot when we were searching for a place to rent in Los Angeles when we first moved here.

It’s a continuation of a theme I’ve been focused on for the last couple of years; in fact, since moving to LA, I think the move magnified my assigned gender role. When we arrived I was the stay at home wife and my husband became the alpha male, bringing home the wage and it felt like I’d gone back in time to the 50s. This has balanced out as we’ve settled into life here, but it sharpened my focus on how easily we slip back into these roles. Being at home had its benefits as it fostered a whole new body of work created from the spare room, and thereafter in a studio when I eventually found one (not so easy, studio space is scarily expensive in LA).

What was the creative process like whilst working on this new body of work?

It was fun! I knew that I wanted to build something and was inspired by the first show I went to see at Hauser & Wirth LA, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Woman 1947-2016 which was incredible.

I’d never worked in 3D before so there was this freedom to it, no rules. I started with the basics, cardboard boxes left over from our move of which we had a lot! I made basic relief sculptures, layering cutouts of cardboard to create a 2D version of a 3D scene, mostly the rooms inside our house. From these half-sculptures I created my first LA paintings. I then moved onto dolls house furniture where I precariously stacked towers of miniature sofas and dressing tables – sometimes allowing them to topple – and then photographed them. From these images I then traced sections and negative spaces which informed compositions for large abstract paintings. From there I moved onto full sized items of furniture, namely chairs and tables from my studio. Tables took on a human identity and became a representation of ideas of submission and repression. I loved creating these 3D artefacts, but they were only ever a means to an end, a stage in the process – painting always called me back.

Furnished tackles female identity exposing the social (and familial) conditioning women are often subject to in our gender-unequal society. As a female artist, I wondered, have you ever come up against sexism or gender stereotypes?

Yes, all the time. The mere mention that I am an artist often leads to a certain amount of eye rolling or assumptions of ‘hobby art’. People don’t try to hide their surprise when they see my work and remark, ‘Oh, you’re actually quite good’.

There is also the contempt for work that is ‘all about me’ – someone once said, in reaction to my work, ‘your work is very narcissistic, women always make work about themselves!’ My work is personal but it also reflects universal feelings of frustration. I am my own worst enemy in the big scheme of things, my personal choices to marry and have children have definitely slowed my progress and prevented me from totally immersing myself in my practice, but that’s a choice I made and it has turned out to be the driving force behind most of my work.

As you were saying, you recently relocated to Los Angeles; do you feel the new location has affected your work?

Initially the physiology of LA was what seeped into my work, the blinding light bleached out everything and I used a lot of titanate yellow. There were references to alien life and sci-fi as I tried to find my place in this unfamiliar environment, endless horizons and solid concrete blocks for buildings. But as I adjusted and the space around me became more familiar, it also become less of a focus and I returned to my themes of identity and domesticity. Something that didn’t change was my use of colour, but my paintings did become more free and less geometric, there was less of a sense of ’boxing in’.

Out of curiosity, what is the art scene like in LA? What, in your view, is the biggest difference between LA’s and London’s art scene?

The LA art scene is great, there are loads of different pockets all over as it’s such a huge spread out city. I love the downtown scene, the arts district is really interesting – Hauser and Wirth opened a beautiful space a couple of years ago just as I moved here, and it has such an awesome program of shows and events. There’s also some great independent galleries that have very unique rosters of artists – I particularly like Night Gallery and Grice Bench.

It’s difficult to compare it to the London art scene, but I would say it’s less exclusive and there doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite to have an MA from such and such school, or who to know to get into a gallery. It’s refreshing as it’s a lot more open, and therefore more exciting. Private views are casual and less stuffy than some of the shows I went to in London, and it probably has more in common with the artist led spaces in East London than the galleries of Mayfair. I’m also seeing a lot more shows out here. Not knowing anyone or anywhere really pushes you out of your comfort zone and you have to get out there to figure out your place in this new system.

And as a last question, what do you have lined up for the rest of the year?

Lots of exciting things! In July/August I have some work in a group show at De Buck Gallery in NY for their seven year anniversary. In August I’m showing work with Arusha Gallery. In September, I’m doing an art dinner and three month show with The Supper Club in LA, and for Miami Basel I’ll be showing with Arusha Gallery and De Buck Gallery at Context and Untitled. Next year I’ll be working on projects with Roberta, De Buck and Arusha. I am also in discussion with some LA galleries, watch this space…

Furnished will be on display from 10th – 16th May at Herrick Gallery, 93 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NQ

www.tahneelonsdale.com

www.robertamoore.co.uk

www.herrickgallery.com

Words by Jacopo Nuvolari @jacopo982

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