tali lennox says her paintings aren’t selfies
We speak to the model-turned-painter as she opens her first gallery show in NYC.
Photography Kathy Lo
Tali Lennox has been sleeping at her gallery in the leadup to her first show. Her exhibition of oil paintings opens tonight at Catherine Ahnell Gallery in SoHo, and the hours have been long. But she loves the structure: "I left school early and then I was modeling, so I never had that routine," she says.
It's hard to do your own thing when everyone expects you to do something else. And when your mum is Annie Lennox, the weight of that expectation is even heavier. But Tali is trying not to think about it. "I love figuring things out on my own," she says, "and it's important not to let yourself get too influenced by the opinions of others."
Besides, she's always made art — long before she started modeling. "It's something I've done since I was tiny. Even when I was a toddler, I was cutting stuff out with scissors." But it's only since moving from London to New York that she's fully explored what being an artist might mean. "Over the past year, I've started taking it really seriously and worked to hone my craft. Now, if I had a day without it, everything would feel very deflated. It connects me to other people. And it's a challenge."
And if anyone can understand Lennox's career shift, it's her gallerist, Catherine Ahnell, the 1984 winner of Eileen Ford's Supermodel of the Year award.
But Tali is also keen to dispel any ideas that she's using her (admittedly pretty great) face for anything other than her art. The works she's showing tonight are all self-portraits, and she's adamant that this has nothing to do with narcissism — or rather that it's a comment on the "widespread casual narcissism" that social media has cultivated.
"Everything is instant now. And you have all these different profiles and pictures which can make you feel fragmented. It's not real, it's not who you are. But with a self-portrait, it's not immediate. It takes days to create one. And it goes deeper. So yes, they're "selfies" (I hate that word!) but instead of these instant, digital things, they're oil on canvas."
So while she's looking at Instagram, she's also paying tribute to the work of more traditional artists. Her favorite living artist, John Currin, for example. "In the 80s, when everyone was making more experimental, contemporary art, he was embarrassed by the fact that he was doing real, masters-style figurative paintings but he stuck with that and modernised it in his own way," she says. "I respect him for having that craft. And it inspires me to keep working on my own."
Layers of Life is open until April 19 at Catherine Ahnell Gallery.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Kathy Lo