Tanner has long made work that explores the notion of cultural heritage, how the legacy of evolving societies is expressed through objects and architecture. In recent years, she has turned to her attention from the tangible to the intangible aspects of heritage, pondering what gives a place its distinctive character.
Artists frequently look to the landscape to explore the notion of genius loci, or “spirit of place,” and in this Tanner was recently inspired by iconic Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918). Hodler’s ordered paintings of the landscape have come to represent a sense of national Swiss identity, and in 2017-18 Tanner created works that reference certain iconic Hodler compositions. Executed in dreamy, Fauvist shades of pink, blue and green, these woodblock prints reveal her skilled use of crosshatching and colour. Layers of crosshatched lines are printed one over the other, creating unique colour and linear interactions that coalesce and harmonise on the sheet. The resulting works present a seductive, idealised view of places that exist as much in the imagination as they do in reality.
Tanner’s use of rhythmic line-work and explorations into colour are taken further in her Mandorla prints of 2018. These works feature densely crosshatched lines combined in layered inter-locking circles. Created with a single block that is inked and printed in varying colours, for each layer the block is turned in a different direction, the two circles overlapping in the centre. The resulting optical effects of line and colour are created by relationships between layers that are most rich in the centre where the circles meet.
The Mandorla as a subject has deep spiritual connotations that have been explored in art for centuries.
Here Tanner employs the Mandorla for its symbolism connected to reconciling opposing forces, the zone where the circles overlap symbolizing healing and wholeness. Thus in these works and in others, Tanner translates the raw materials of her art – wood, ink and paper into images that transcend an everyday observation of the physical world.
– Marguerite Brown MAArtCur