Interview With Tanya Wales

Tanya Wales intentionally has no reference to guide her works, choosing instead to paint intuitively, responding and acting upon an experience or feeling. The techniques she uses guide her methods and practise, using a combination of pouring, transparent layers, fine brushwork and painterly marks. The nature of this work and its many stages means she is usually working on several pieces in parallel. 

Arts writer Kate Bettes caught up with Tanya to find out more about her intuitive practice.

Please tell me about yourself?
Born in Adelaide, moved to Sydney 14 years ago (approx). From a child to now, I’ve never grown up!!! Creativity has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. As a child I would methodically paint, draw & create things for my family members. Picture, basket weaving & letters for loved ones. After high school I went to design arts school where I learnt a wide range of creative channels. At the time I choose to go into Graphic Design starting as an apprentice finished artist & then moving into an advance diploma in Graphic Design. I currently work as a Creative Director for myself with the company Scribble & Think.

My paintings are created by pouring paint, and so I need my artworks to lie down flat.

When did you start doing art?
I had a break from painting for a while, but have been painting again for the last 10 years.

Are you drawn to colour outside of art? If so, where? (I saw your lovely colour swatches on Instagram!)
Yes, I love colour on any surface! Working in Graphic Design I am working with colour every day. Colour theory is adaptable to any surface once you know the fundamentals.

I think the hardest thing is to be restrictive with colour.

A common theme in your work testimonials is that your exploration of colour allows the audience to have an ‘instant’ moment with the work - trying not to have any reference point. Would you say this is true for all your works? At what point did you decide to take on this method of creation?
Yes, there was an intentional shift in what I wanted to create & I think the transition toward my new works started as a way to take time out from my hectic life. I wanted my artwork to provide a moment pause for the viewer, to be in the moment surrounded by a painting that evoked a feeling.

I find colour fascinating & how people react to different paintings. The most common comments from people are: 'Your works are like calm versions of Rothko’. The buyer of 'An invitation to Ponder’ didn’t know how I’d feel when she told me that’s why she loved my work. It’s an honour for someone to see that in my work. She even has a dog names ‘Rothko’!!

Another comment I receive are ‘Your works are so calming’. At TOAF (The Other Art Fair), viewers were transfixed with my stand… It was a welcome moment of pause at such an amazingly busy event.

I’ve also been told the longer you stand with the work the more you are drawn in, with the layers & details slowly revealing to you. At my last open studio viewers we’re fascinated how at first glance the works seem very simple to view, but it’s not until they have your full attention that you really connect with the work, seeing all the subtle details.

Considering the emotional aspect of the works (colour trigger subjective experiences), are there aspects of the work that are evident to you that might not be obvious to a viewer? i.e. ‘Without Hesitation’

Without Hesitation is a bold piece that uses colour to command its place. What I love about this piece of work is the shift in surface form with the edges carrying lost of details, yet 3/4 of the work in the centre is quite minimal. It’s a composed piece that people either love or hate, which I find very interesting.

Some of your earlier work, such as that showcased in Immersed, is a lot more multi-coloured, and almost transparent, than the works you do now. What has drawn you to the more opaque, multi-toned palette you use now? Or would you describe the change as something else?
Yes, my earlier works were a lot brighter with a lot more shapes with form leading each piece. I wanted to simplify my colour palettes by restricting my colours & form.

Could you identify anything that determines your colour choice or is the process very intuitive?
Sometimes I start out with a specific colour or idea in mind, but that changes as the work build. With abstract work you need to let the work guide what’s next. If you stick to an ideal the work can develop a strange awkwardness to it, like it wanted to be doing something else. I’m sure that sounds very strange, but each piece of work grows with every pour.

As you work on several different pieces at once, do any pieces ever turn out completely unexpectedly?
Yes, I have had a few unexpected things happen. Because my works are created lying flat by pouring paint there’s a very specific process to developing the work.

Are there any artists/instagrams you are inspired by? Or is it largely 'like-minded' people who may not necessarily be artists, but have ideas that interest you?
Yes, Instagram is amazing for getting a global perspective. My favourite 2 are:
Heather Day (Website & Instagram) Heather is an inspiration for sharing her day-to-day life as an artist. Her mark making fascinates me.
Eric Evak (Website & Instagram) Eric’s work is bold in its colour, with little surface form. I love how stripped the work is.

When did you start using acrylic for your colour works? Had you tried other mediums before?
I’ve painted in both oils & acrylic, but I prefer acrylics. I find the oil paint too smelly, which can affect my breathing.

I’ve been creating poured works for about 7 years now & I am enjoying perfecting the painting process. There are different mediums I work with depending on the stage of the work, it’s very process driven.

I haven’t explored many other mediums because I’m happy with the ones I have. But I am planning to meeting with a pigment specialist to understand how this could influence my work.

Is there a medium you're experimenting with at the moment, or one you'd like to explore in the future?
I'm currently testing a few different papers to find what works best to be still able to create poured works. It’s a balancing act due to the diluted paints & mediums.

I’m also planning a collaboration with another artist… It’s early days & we haven’t locked down the plan yet but I’m excited to develop this project :)


What aesthetic challenges are you facing right now?
I paint works that I enjoy, so I don’t follow interior trends. I should probably follow trends more when creating work.

Have past exhibitions, or even life events or other people, influenced your AMP in a meaningful way?
Being part of TOAF last year was an amazing experience. I meet some really inspiring artist as well as gallery owners & art dealers.

Your Paper Works have an extremely different aesthetic i.e. The Darkness of the Expressions. Did anything trigger a move away from this?
I love the paper works. They were created as a expression of building layers with glazing using a brush.

My new works rarely have a brush used, so the surface expression has changed.

Do you have any new projects/exhibitions coming up?
I was due to have a joint show at a new contemporary gallery that’s opening in Sydney, but there’s a DA issue & the building is currently awaiting a re-zoned. This may take another 6 months to a year & the show will be scheduled in the first 6 months of opening.

I’m looking for a contemporary gallery to exhibit at now & am open to being part of joint show.

For people to really get an understanding of my work they really need to see it in person. There are so many subtle details that you don’t see until you stand with a piece of work. 

You can see all of Tanya's works for sale here.