From a Place Within - Artist Tansy Maki
From photo-realistic murals to abstract paintings and conceptual installations, Canadian/Caymanian artist, Tansy Maki’s work is layered with skill, nuance and meaning.
Words by Natasha Were.
Inside the entrance to Jasmine hospice, 130 pearlescent flying fish spiral up towards to the clerestory windows, catching and reflecting the sunlight, and imbuing the space with a sense of serenity. The installation, titled The Glide by Tansy Maki, is just one example of the myriad media the artist works with to both express, and elicit, emotion.
Wood, gemstones, textiles, hand-dyed paper, acrylics and even gold leaf are materials that appear in the self-taught artist´s work. Through an ongoing exploration of different combinations of materials, textures and patterns, Tansy creates artwork that straddles the space between traditional and contemporary, that blurs the lines between two-dimensional and three-dimensional, and ultimately defies categorisation.
Raised in Canada, Tansy took painting, drawing and sculpting classes as a child, but did not pursue any formal art training, opting instead to work as a set designer and decorator in the film industry, before moving to Cayman 20 years ago.
For Tansy, the tactile qualities of the materials she chooses are as important as their appearance. “Within fine art, there can be an unspoken rule of distance between the viewer and the art,” she observes. “For my sculptural and textural installations, I am really trying to evoke the desire to connect through touch.”
She took this intention a step further with the Bananaquit Nest art installation she designed and constructed for the Children’s Garden at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park earlier this year. Weaving together driftwood and plop nut wood to create a human-sized dome-shaped replica of the native bird’s nest, she has created a piece of interactive art that invites viewers not only to touch and feel but to climb inside it, whilst also educating them about the importance of preserving natural ecosystems.
Tansy’s deep connection to the natural world, and Cayman’s coastal landscapes and marine environments, in particular, is frequently expressed in her art, often in contemporary paintings. Her Storm series, for instance, captures the fluidity of the ocean and the brooding energy of storms in dark grey and vivid aqua tones, whilst those such as Cayman Trench, Fire Coral and Cerulean Seas take the viewer below the surface into a watery world of shimmering blues.
In her canvas pieces, Tansy works with acrylics, applying vivid colours in thin, fluid layers each of which is almost transparent, but that added together create a sense of depth. Sometimes, she uses other media such as opalescent and iridescent materials to add a glow and alters the brush patterns and markings depending on whether she wants to create a piece that suggests calm or intensity, energy or space. This careful combination of materials, layers and reflection, results in canvasses whose appearance varies as the quality of the light changes throughout the course of the day.
“My paintings and sculptures grow from a place within me, where I am trying to understand, describe or convey emotions that I feel when observing certain components of, or experiences within, nature,” Tansy says. In addition to being inspired by the natural world, she says, her work may also be expressions of personal strength, determination or perseverance.
The great appeal of the arts, be it music, dance or painting, is their ability to not only express emotions but also to arouse feelings in the viewer. For many, the benchmark of great art is whether it elicits an emotional response, something that Tansy Maki’s diverse works certainly do. Dream-like, inspirational and uplifting are just some of the terms that have been used to describe her art. And at Jasmine, her installation has struck a comforting chord with many, who have contacted the artist to express their thanks for the calm it brings. “It is very special to create artwork that will bring peace, joy and provoke self-reflection,” she observes. “How amazing that a piece of my art can help people through hard times.”
To view more of Tansy’s artwork:
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