Tahnee Lonsdale: Waiting for Entry into that Holy Space, London

Upon entering the light-filled Shoreditch art gallery, Redchurch Street Gallery, in which painter Tahnee Lonsdale’s new body of works Waiting for Entry Into that Holy Place is installed, the visitor is welcomed by a vibrant display of canvases painted in bold colours, whose imaginary characters roam an array of whimsical landscapes rendered in a candy-coloured palette.

From afar, works such as I Used To Go To Church, Now I’m Just Confused seem to articulate an instinctive and spontaneous approach to colour. However, when the viewer takes a closer look, they will discover a much more thoughtful process behind the selection and application of colour. For example, the broad yellow background in I Used To Go To Church… is in fact built up through a painterly tapestry of ambers, saffron, and mustards, which is complemented by patches of maroon and salmon pinks, and a strong feeling of optimism emerges through this handling of colour. However, this bright palette belies a seductively dark side to the paintings and, looking closer, the visitor is taken on a darkly imaginative stroll through the artist’s inner world, which is mapped onto a landscape where conventional perspective is distorted, and ambiguous narratives are revealed.

In works such as All Souls Avenue, the seemingly calculated dissection of the composition divides the canvas into two distinct areas, separating the work into a conventional foreground and background. The space in the foreground is compressed, its characters rendered from a bird’s eye perspective, whereas the background seems to lead out into open space. It is only when the viewer leans in for a closer inspection, noting the subtly etched windows that punctuate the upper field, that this illusory sense of space and openness is subverted. The dream world that the vibrant colours invite the viewer to roam suddenly morphs into an alternative reality, an ambiguous space inhabited by even more ambiguous creatures.

A strong feature in this new body of work is the cast of recurring characters that populate its mythical landscapes. Identifiable by their oddly misshapen heads, as in the Punch and Gladstone series, or by stylistic elements, such as the flower headdress which suggest a relationship between the characters in works such as Philosophy and Alchemy, the presence of these characters unveils a narrative thread throughout all of the works, which serves to develop the world of imagination beyond that of pure abstraction.

Waiting for Entry Into that Holy Place ran 11 – 16 June at Redchurch Street Gallery, London.

Róisín Lacey-McCormac

1. I Used To Go To Church, Now I’m Just Confused © Tahnee Lonsdale. Courtesy Roberta Moore Contemporary.