There is a great communication barrier between humans and birds, probably because they don’t bother with us humans very much, and because we think any animal without eyebrows is an idiot. The fact of the matter is that I know an African Grey parrot who is smarter than some guys I’ve met, and I’ve known chickens with a greater capacity for love and affection than, actually, rather a lot of people I know.
I grew up around birds and learned how they express themselves. In the same way that other people get to know dogs and how much like us they can be, I spent that much time with birds. Instead of a dog, we had an African Grey. Instead of a cat, we had a Senegal. Instead of fish, I had a flock of hens who would dog-pile on me when I called them.
When people think of birds, we think of chicken nuggets, mostly, or how dirty pigeons are. We accept the idea that birds are stupid, in the same way that we accept that pigs and cows are stupid. But of course, like most things, what you think you know about something is the first obstacle facing you when you try to learn more about it.
I wouldn’t bother saying any of this if Rose Tanner’s paintings of birds didn’t show exactly what it is that I grew up with. When she paints birds, she sees their personality, which in itself is so unusual, but that she can also show it to you in her art is just wonderful.
Paintings of birds of often the same, the bird is usually posed, like a still-life of a fruit. It’s a pretty, colorful ornament, or the icing upon a confectionary landscape. But Rose’s birds, well… I’ve never seen a Loon look at me from a painting like that. It’s usually just a bunch of lines that are pretending to be a Loon.
Ever seen a taxidermied animal? When the corpse of a thing is stuffed and made to look alive? Aside from how the bear is standing up on its hind legs, there’s absolutely nothing there that makes it look alive, right? No matter the skill of the Taxidermist – it is lifeless. Paintings are no different, they capture the lines, yes, but it takes an unusual level of empathy and attention to detail to communicate a personality. Like when you see a painting of a pretty lady, there is a difference between a pretty lady being posed and painted, and an artist painting a pretty lady to show you something about her that you otherwise would have missed. In the latter case, suddenly the Pretty is also a person. That can be the difference between an attractive cartoon and a portrait, or between a person and a bunch of lines made to resemble a person. Rose Tanner’s birds are, compared to the average painting of a bird, how you might compare the Statue of David to a drawing of David Hasselhoff running down the beach. No disrespect to Mr. Hasselhoff or Baywatch.
That’s what Rose Tanner’s paintings do, and she manages it without even having to paint eyebrows or lips. If you look at her paintings, you’ll see what I see, that’s how good she is. www.rosetanner.com
Art! Vancouver runs May 25th – 28th 2017
Get your tickets at: http://artvancouver.net/attend/