Full article from edition 5.
Still lifes are the Tai Chi of art disciplines – stately, subtle and, when done well, quite devastating. An essential element of this form is that the execution must appear effortless and of the moment and the image should posses both a sense of timeless connection to the tradition while simultaneously unique to the artist. This condition of seemingly pushing in opposite directions creates the tension which keeps the concept of still life alive. Yet it is a characteristically austere form, attempted by many but conquered by few and, frankly, one wonders what it is that draws a certain type of artist to the form as anything more than an exercise. Until, that is, the eye rests upon the stunning work of Tania Schmieder.
The objects in her paintings shine from the canvas with a particular vibrancy that can only be achieved with paint. The images are literal interpretations yet there is a quality to the light, the tones and hues that is not at all photographic, it is something of the artist.
Now living and working in some place called Bristol, Tania grew up in the precincts of Wareham, here in Purbeck. Wags may suggest this was her inspiration for taking up still-life painting, but in fact that honour belongs to Helen Simmonds whose work she closely echoes. “I was inspired by the profound sense of peace I found in Helen’s work. I was lucky enough to spend a day with her in her studio last summer and she taught me to try to ‘paint what you see’… to look and match, look and match. There’s a lot of processing that goes on between observation and canvas, and you need to cut that back to paint what you’re actually seeing, not what you think you see.” Ostensibly, she breaks the image before her into its constituent components. “Each part of the painting has its own shape and colour… Helen also introduced me to Euan Uglow and Tony de Wolf’s work, which I love”.
So here’s the surprise: Tania has only been painting seriously for two years and is entirely self-taught. Why did she wait so long? Fear. “Everyone has their work inside them but there is this fear that inhibits them. I was galvanised by the book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield at the same time I saw Helen’s work, and by a musician playing on stage. I was inspired by the fact of someone giving their gift to the world. At that time, I was trying to be someone I was supposed to be which was totally not working.”
Simmonds provided Tania’s Damascene moment, commencing within her the on-going struggle of realising her potential as both an artist and a person. “At first I was warring-it. By the end of a painting, I’d be wiped out; I was fighting myself.” Tania tried a few avenues for inspiration and instruction, including websites such as Painting for the Day and Balanced View – “…an incredibly simple and elegant teaching method together with a whole support system. My painting has made a leap without me trying.”
“I’m taken by still life because of the peace, simplicity and the way it is humble – it shows the beauty in very ordinary things.”