Just painting your emotions

Travel | Cara Chen 26 Mar 2021

At the white cube-style Mine Project gallery in Wan Chai, the blazing colors of Tahnee Lonsdale's imposing or dinky paintings are so vibrant, they seem to be bursting out from the bright walls.

Metaphorically, Lonsdale's works are windows into her emotions. By incorporating years of interpersonal experience into her works, she offers visitors a look into her mind.

That's probably why the exhibition, which runs until April 3, is entitled Now You See Me.

An abstract figurative painter heavily influenced by Henri Matisse, the 39-year-old uses a flowing, folding, intertwined and twisting form to depict her characters.

In her words, the characters are all versions of herself - just in different aspects.

"They're loving, nurturing and accepting each other. All aspects of the self are integrated," Lonsdale said.

The works are divided into two groups and placed in two spaces separated from each other in the gallery: The Hidden and The Found.

In The Hidden, figures are submerged in water and may even be lost, but The Found alludes to the acceptable and the nurturing of oneself to love.

Even so, the artist says that her works could be interchanged in any number of different orders.

"I created the works in a nonlinear way, so there is no timeline or categorizing," Lonsdale said. "It [hiding and finding ourselves from time to time] is the human condition - it jumps and spirals."

"As I change, my characters change. As I experience life and feel pain or joy, so do my characters."

The image of flowers plays a vital role in Lonsdale's work and stems from a relationship the artist had with a man who worked with flowers. A sweet and caring symbol of love and reconnection when in full bloom, the flowers begin to wilt and die and then float away when the relationship doesn't work out.

Another dual narrative, alongside the zigzag lines, appears via another important image: water.

For Lonsdale, water is a healing field that creates a sense of security, much like a "blanket" that provides comfort.

"Sometimes, when you get in a deep bath and put your head under the warm water, noises become muffled and vibrational," said Lonsdale. "And you become detached from everything."

In Kin, all the figures hide half or all of their bodies in the water.

For Lonsdale, the depiction of these figures evokes the sensation of "hiding" underwater so nothing from the outside world can hurt her - much like how we only show the parts of ourselves we feel comfortable sharing, leaving the shadows hidden under the surface. It is a feeling visitors will become intimately familiar with through her works.

Lonsdale highlights Kin as a prime example of her expressive, emotive and gestural artistic language, calling the painting a "lighthouse."

"It is weird because when I was making it, I hated it. It was such a tough painting and nearly got totally erased as I kept removing and layering, and working into and covering it," said Lonsdale.

"I really felt like I was losing my identity. I was so scared, sad, anxious and at a loss as to what to do, but I see the strength in that now, and how it captured my state of mind at the time," she said.

Although her work exudes a strong sense of sadness, the artist's ultimate foothold is self-care. For her, painting is a form of self-exploration through which she marks down the process of being abandoned, challenged and loved.

"My paintings are about seeing yourself - all aspects of you, the fear, the sadness, the joy and desires, and holding them," Lonsdale said.

"Everything in the process pushes you in the direction of truth and love, and the most soul-destroying thing is abandoning yourself."

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October 2021

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