Tahnee Lonsdale’s abstract alien paintings speak to human emotions and the unknown

LA-based painter Tahnee Lonsdale channels her love of folklore, mysticism and UFOs into her colourful paintings of abstract beings. We caught up with her to discover how she creates them and how they manifest their own separate will.

The year 2024 is shaping up to be a busy one for Tahnee Lonsdale. She’s got a show in Paris coming up in March, and she’s also participating in a group show called ‘Creatures and Masks’ with Fabian Lang in Zurich that’s due to open at the end of February. And that’s all before her large solo show at Night Gallery in Los Angeles this September.

The hectic schedule shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Tahnee’s striking paintings of abstract alien forms are a captivating hit that simultaneously taps into the viewer’s feelings and expresses something intangible that she describes as ’emotional divinity’.

These upcoming shows are the latest step in an illustrious career traced back to Tahnee’s teenage years. This is when art first came to her after growing up in a home where she was left to her own devices with her three sisters. And while her grandmother’s homemade tapestries and quilts were an artistic presence, Tahnee was initially drawn to writing as a means of creative expression.

“I abandoned the idea of being a writer and found my place in the rundown art department at my school,” she tells Creative Boom. “It became my permanent residence for three years until I left and went to art school. That experience didn’t go smoothly, and I certainly wasn’t a natural talent. It took me a long time to find my rhythm. Persistence has been my friend.”

Luckily for viewers, Tahnee persevered. Motivated by a love of science fiction, quantum physics and magic – “I either love the way they look, or how they move me” – her layered paintings try to capture that spark of curiosity they generate. And by replicating them in her work, she hopes to try and understand them better through interpretation.

Now living in LA, Tahnee’s creativity embraces yet another facet: freedom. “Moving to LA was more about a need to leave London, actually England,” she adds. “But LA made sense because I had family here, and my husband (at the time) could work easily. The freedom of a new place and identity allowed more freedom in my work.”

As for the “emotional divinity” that underpins her work, Tahnee explains that this translates as an emotional expression that reflects human elements and speaks of an unknown and intangible essence.

“Without wanting to sound like a cliché, my art manifests its own separate will, and with that, I really have to let it happen, or it fails,” Tahnee explains. “If I force it, it fails. If I rush it, it fails. My work requires its own pace.”

Speaking of her creative process, Tahnee explains that lately, she has enjoyed building up layers of paint and watching the colours work with one another. “I’m enjoying texture a lot more as well,” she adds.

“For the series that I’m currently working on, I’m holding off on defining the figures a lot more than I have in the past, almost as if I’m giving them some breathing space and trusting that in the right timing, they’ll appear when they are ready to show themselves.

“Techniques for me are, for the most part, trial and error. Generally, I like to start with a base layer of acrylic paint in a bright colour, and then I just keep adding layers of oil paint in different colours as the paint becomes more transparent, clearly leaving its brush marks.”

She adds: “Sometimes I have a predetermined idea of the composition, but often I don’t, so I just draw directly onto the canvas. My approach is very much intuitive, so the trial and error often turns to some kind of experienced movement forward. Like this, within time, I often find myself surprised by the finishing result.”

Beyond her paintings, Tahnee also creates abstract sculptures, inviting people to interact with and live within. “The figures in the paintings are untouchable, distant, someplace else,” she concludes. “My sculptures are not meant to be tangible versions of the figures in my work, but more so a sensory stand-in for what my aliens represent. They’re emotive vessels; they’re the kind hands of a friend rather than the presence of an angel.”

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