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Morphing and Distorting: Tanya Linney

Tanya Linney is a Sydney-based artist and ex-model who has an upcoming solo show, Morphic Distortions, at Paddington’s Global Gallery this Wednesday. The mixed-media body of work sees an insightful investigation into contemporary notions of female identity, form, and sexuality, whilst remaining humorous and palatable. Side Street, Sydney had the opportunity to talk to Tanya about the reasoning behind her work, whether or not she thinks of herself as a feminist artist and how chaos sometimes leads to clarity.

“The title Morphic Distortions is about the layering of imagery and the twofold media messages we receive on a daily basis in many forms. It is about decoding and reinterpreting these messages: morphing and distorting what we are told,” Tanya tells Side Street, Sydney of her upcoming solo show. “It is also reflective of the processes that I use, such as multi-layering mediums and disguising social fantasies with humour - this is all part of the social commentary that lies in my work.”

Tanya is brief when talking about her modeling career, speaking of it in a detached
manner, saying, “I modeled years ago but it was never my passion.” She describes herself in the modeling world as “just a bystander that watched it all like a play.” Yet she doesn’t entirely disregard her experience as a model, conceding that she draws upon aspects of it to inform her art practice. “It gave me an insight into the media forum... The media is a platform for me to work with and against; therein lies the humour in my work.” With explicit references to the female form, female identity, sexuality and role-playing, Tanya also says that her experience as a model “provided me with an eye for the obscure and taboo,” adding that she looks upon her past career apathetically, in neither a cynical nor positive light.

Even as a model, Tanya was always heavily invested with visual art. She started drawing and making collages in her late teenage years, and pursued this passion as she travelled the world, working with inspiring artists and studying drawing and photography in New York. Once home again in Sydney, Tanya studied visual art academically, and from there she developed her own mixed-media and multi-technique approach to art, which has led to her inclusion in group shows in New York, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as three solo exhibitions.

“Female identity is always changing as we reach for equality as women,” Tanya says, explaining the investigation of it throughout her work. “This intrigues me and I like to explore the notion of what it means to be a woman in modern society, the dynamics of it and the ways it effects the social and sexual balance,” she says. Her exploration is played out through reoccurring motifs, such as the use of household items in her paper sculptures, which she indicates “are representations and symbols used to question female identity in today’s society, such as pegs, knives, makeup, fake hair extensions, wooden spoons, coat hangers and washing machine lint.”

Notions of the female form and sexuality are also key in Tanya’s overriding artistic narrative. Perhaps as a nod to one of her favourite artists, Cindy Sherman, mannequins and body parts are employed to explore these concepts. “They symbolise perfection and the female form, which has been a strong undercurrent in my work,” she explains. “I like the fragmented nature of body parts and mannequins; they are also a perfect forum for role playing.” Inks, pens and hand-cut collage are other materials that Tanya uses in Morphic Distortions.

While her art deals with the complex negotiations surrounding contemporary femininity and female identity, Tanya is hesitant in calling herself a feminist artist. “I guess by confronting female body image and sexual identity I am a feminist artist, however I like to think that as my work progresses I will be open to dealing with many more social issues,” she explains, suggesting that all categorisation comes with constraint. It is clear that creative constraint is one of Tanya’s fears, from her mixed-media approach to her preferred working conditions: “I need complete chaos around me. A messy environment is essential. Through the madness comes creative clarity for me!” she tells us.

For Tanya, creating art is both self-indulgent and highly rewarding. “Art, unlike design, is created for the artist,” she explains.

“You don’t create art for others. It is selfish but it is the only way to stay true to your viewpoint... My work has always been a solo journey. When I create it’s very private. It’s the only time I am truly in the moment.”

Excited about Morphic Distortions, Tanya tells us that she thinks Sydney is an important part of the international art scene in that “it is a great breeding ground for young artists to develop in before they enter the international market.” While Tanya is no doubt already onto her next creative endeavour (when she’s not occupying her time by reading about the life of Simone De Beauvoir), she tells Side Street, Sydney that in a perfect world, she would do just two things a day: “Create and make love!”

Tanya Linney

Morphic Distortions opens tomorrow (Wednesday the 27th) at Global Gallery in Paddington.

words: Ingrid Kesa


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