Habitat – Tai-Shan Schierenberg

This latest blog post focuses on Tai-Shan Schierenberg and his work.

Tai-Shan Schierenberg is highly regarded for his arresting portraits and depictions of the Norfolk landscape, executed in a succulent gestural painterly style. Whilst he has forged an international reputation that has lead to his work being acquired by prestigious institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery, he continually seeks new subjects and methods of approaching them.

Tai with Amie Conway, Exhibitions Curator, Flowers Gallery, London
Tai with Amie Conway, Exhibitions Curator, Flowers Gallery, London

Tai-Shan Schierenberg incorporates both landscapes and portraits into this exhibition and residency with Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford Museums and Galleries,  with specific views of the North of England, Yorkshire and Bradford.

Alongside Tai’s work will be oil paintings selected by the artist from Bradford’s fine art collection, including Gwen John, William Rothenstein and John Singer Sargent.

Tai Pairing 2
Minicab Driver – Oil on canvas, 2009

Below you can read some of his thoughts about the Residency.

Artist Residency at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, 2013 – 14

By Tai-Shan Schierenberg

For me the North is another country, another time almost, so I was excited to be offered the chance to exhibit and work in and around Bradford. My first visit was bathed in sunshine and my approach, because of other travel arrangements, was by rail, west to east, through narrow green valleys, past old industrial towns with wonderful names rich with a particular kind of English romance: Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Halifax, where men used to put in a hard, honest day’s work and played a hard, honest kind of football in some golden past.

That evening in Bradford I wandered around the grand buildings of Little Germany built by Jewish cloth merchants in the 19th century, dodged young Asian entrepreneurs in their sharp cars and got lost negotiating the huge building site in the heart of the city ringed by hoarding and signs promising a golden retail future, before two smartly dressed young Mormon missionaries straight out of Utah came to my rescue and pointed me in the direction of the town hall.

There, under the grand Victorian Campanile, families of all nationalities played in the fountains and water features whilst a sea of white haired music fans enjoyed a Royal Opera production on the large outdoor screen next to the bustling bars and restaurants. As Tosca sang her last big aria, two sunburnt drunks, ankle deep in a fountain started a noisy fist-fight over a girl, only to be drowned out in their turn by a bunch of middle aged mods rocking up on their sparkling Vespas and Lambrettas.

Everywhere I went that sunny evening I asked the locals what they thought of their city. From the hotel receptionist, the cooks on a fag break outside the Mecca, to the newspaper man, they said it was ‘…where nothing happened and that its best days were behind it.’  Maybe they were too close to their city, had been there too long, because from an outsider’s point of view it looked a pretty amazing and vibrant place, but maybe it seems different when the sun is shining.

Oz- oil on canvas, 2014

 I’ve just been back up to Bradford and this painting is already out of date because construction has finally started after ten years of delays. But I am still allergic to the idea of retail therapy as a panacea to every social or municipal problem. When I wandered around this deserted wasteland in the summer I came across the main billboard advertising which shops were going to open. Depressingly, as in every high street or shopping centre the length and breadth of Britain, it was the usual suspects. I loved the contrast of the grand historical buildings in the distance and the shabby hoarding covered in optimistic children’s pictures in the foreground, which echo the promise of good times to come.

Titus - Oil on Board 2014
Titus – Oil on Board 2014

I’d visited Saltaire and the Salts Mill on my first visit and liked the fact that as in Italy, it seemed possible for people to live and work in such a beautiful and historically significant place – cars on the streets, rows of bins, neighbours having a chat outside their homes. I wanted to paint the back alleys with the yards and rows of bins, but thought that was pushing the point a bit, so I just stuck to a terrace. I painted it from inside my car but the way I was parked meant that the shadows were moving very quickly – that is why it is unfinished but I think it actually works better this way.

Cow and Calf - Oil on Canvas 2014
Cow and Calf – Oil on Canvas 2014

I’d heard about Ilkley and was not disappointed when I first went for a walk there, though we got caught in a downpour. Moors are really about atmosphere and light and textures, but I like structures in my work, so although I was reluctant to use such a well known landmark, I liked these rocks so much I had to paint them. The light was very dramatic when it broke through the clouds and everything was dripping with rain which is what I concentrated on in the way I made the painting.

I painted the portrait of the boy, which I’ve matched this with, some time ago and the mood of the boy came to mind when I thought about the name of the rocks. While he was sitting for the portrait he needed reassurance from his mother every now and then – so she’s in the painting but not visible.

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