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Tanisha Bhana

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Transmorphic Landscapes

Tanisha Bhana is a qualified financial attorney, currently working in a private capacity in the financial services sector. On a good day you can find her with her camera in obscure places in and around Johannesburg. Intelligent, creative, methodical, highly intuitive and conceptually articulate best describe this multidisciplinary artist. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Bhana online, in conjunction with my visual art research. We discussed aspects of her previous photographic works and exhibitions as well as her current projects. Amongst her numerous accolades is the New Multimedia & Photography Award of 2013, by the Thami Nyele Foundation. Bhana has had numerous International shows and is featured regularly within the local art scene, specifically at the Turbine and Joburg Art Fair.

Her solo exhibitions include, ‘Transcience’ at the Lovell Gallery in Cape Town in 2012, ‘Metamorphosis’ at the ArtCo Gallery in Germany in 2013 and ‘Mortal Remains’ at the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London, South Africa. Collaborative performance-based exhibits include ‘War, Women and the Human Spirit’ in conjunction with Dr. Rama Mani at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Canada in 2014. The ‘Changing Character of War’ in conjunction with Dr. Anette Adler and Dr. Rama Mani was held at the Graduate Centre in Geneva and at the University of Oxford in 2016. The lyrical performance-based work entitled, ‘The Art of Hospitality’ was held at the French Consul of France, Turkey in 2014.

Figure 1. Tanisha Bhana. 2014. Milk for Dust 3. Digital image

The digital artwork, Figure 1, Milk for Dust 3 depicts a waste dump in Johannesburg, treated compositionally within the classic rule of thirds, it sits uncomfortably within the genre of traditional landscape. The un-comfortability lies in the juxtaposition of the unorthodox subject matter of a dump, with the rich, dramatic scenic proportions of a Joseph Turner painting. The artists’ visual veneration of piles of human detritus and sullage, extends equally to the female subject in the foreground. The human subject luxuriates seductively amongst the waste as if in a meadow, whilst swathes of airborne Ibis create interesting shadows against a cloudy cerulean sky. Bhana approaches all objects and subjects under her lens as ‘matter’, both the organic and the inorganic materials homogenize under the sharp-edged amber light. Within this mindscape of discarded objects and decomposing organic refuse, the cyclical nature of life and death plays out. This temporal ecosystem is emphasized by the fragile, reclining nude, as a symbol of fertility, unaware of the approaching brutality of the payloader and the looming predatory birds. The artist captures carbon-based matter within the unending rhythmic ‘birth- consume- death- decompose’ cycle.

Bhana states, “Finding joy in the alchemical process of transmuting matter of all kinds, I love to explore the common link that humans share with every object and organism, that which we create, use, occupy, consume, destroy or re-deploy”. She also describes her role as an observer or a witness to nature, materials and processes. This neutrality applies an almost sterile distance between subject and artist, who merely bears witness to the chemistry of life unfolding in front of her lens. This intensity and penetrating gaze of the artist is apparent in Figure 2, Cosmic Dance 2. Cobalt blue fluorescence infuses into gold and raw umber whilst diagonal striations could denote delicate twig shadows or shooting star trajectories. A microcosmic glance of the substance of the universe, earth reflecting sky in a transfused abstraction of existence, or what Bhana refers to as a ‘dance’.

Figure 2. Tanisha Bhana. 2015. Cosmic Dance 2. Digital image

The conceptual premise of Bhana’s work hearkens to Nicolas Bourriaud’s [1] discussion of the era of the Anthropocene, relating to the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Bourriaud describes the philosophical emergence of the Anthropocene and speculative realism [2] through the aesthetic critique of the works of British artist Mark Leckey and French artist Pierre Huyghe. A prominent characteristic of their work, is the relationship to objects and animals, devoid of the linguistic and scientific precepts commonly attributed to them. Within this premise of ‘object-being’ egalitarianism, the artist ‘exposes’ visual phenomenon as an ‘active witness’, rather than a creator or beholder. Similarly, Bhana exposes the viewer to landscapes of transmorphic carbon forms interacting on a chemical level, subverting the hierarchical dominance of mediation through human consciousness. Bourriaud quotes Leckey’s ‘empathy’ towards objects as a type of ‘deconditioned gaze’ of the artist, one that observes life unfolding, without projecting a value or judgement. Bhana’s work bears witness to the ‘value-chain of people and things’, her empathy and fascination with the material alchemy of forms, transudes through her digital palette as she attempts to ‘fossilise the interconnectedness of all things’.

[1] French curator, philosopher, writer and critic

[2] Speculative realism is a movement in contemporary Continental-inspired philosophy, that defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against its interpretation of the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy

List of Sources

Tanishas' Labyrinth. Interpreting the Landscape, recording the trail. (Accessed 10/02/2022)

Nicolas Bourriaud. (Accessed 10/10/2022)

CCTelAvivIsrael. 2015. Nicolas Bourriaud – Art in the Anthropocene: Humans, Objects and Translations. (Accessed 08/08/2020)

Gratton, P. 2014. Review. Speculative Realism: Problems & Prospects. Notre Dame Philosophical views. (Accessed 10/02/2022)

Introducing Mark Leckey. Tate. (Accessed 10/02/2022)

Pierre Huyghe. Art21. (Accessed 10/02/2022)

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