A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting La Cabeza Gallery’s artist Tamar Swartz in her west Toronto home. Tamar’s cozy, bedroom studio is a visual treasure in itself. I was able to chat with Tamar, just about to facilitate an Intuitive Painting weekend retreat, as she told me what inspires her to create.
Diana: Tamar, thanks for having me over this morning. Can you tell us what is Intuitive Art? Where and when did it originate?
Tamar: Intuitive Art is what I have come to call process-based visual art. It is the art that is created as a means of self-expression, without thought or planning about what the end piece will be. This type of art has its roots in the realm of expressive art therapy, where the process or experience of creating is valued over the visual appeal/artistry/technical skill of the final creation.
I’ve been exploring Intuitive Art for about 6 years now. I came across this approach to art making when I lived in Cape Town, South Africa in 2012. I’ve always loved creating, but felt stagnant in the traditional art classes that were largely technique or product driven. I was looking for my own artistic voice and I found it through this process-based, intuitive, heart-centred way of creating art.
And so things evolved and in 2015 went to live in Budapest, Hungary for an artist residency. My project was called “The Journey to Creative Surrender” and it was all about what “Creative Surrender” looks like, feels like and how to access it. It was a three part project based on Creative Surrender, and included creating my own body of art, collaborating with other artists (musicians, writers, dancers), and then offering workshops to people who wanted to engage with Intuitive Art.
For me, Creative Surrender is a state of being present and embodied in the creative process, it’s the moment of letting go while making art, when a deep listening to creative intuition occurs, and it’s about giving space and allowing the piece of art to unfurl, emerge and breathe as any living organism would. The saying “trust the process” is central to this approach of art making.
I’ve also come to realize that my process is intuitive and based on my own embodiment and presence. I allow the materials to dictate the flow of the work, combining paper, paint and oil pastels. When I start with a blank piece of paper or canvas, I rarely know what it will look like in the end. I may have an inspired starting point, such as a colour, image, quote, but that’s about it. It’s the art leads the way… I just follow!
D: Can you tell me a bit more about your creative process? What inspires you?
T: I’m drawn in by the magic of the natural world. Organic shapes, colours, contrasts and how things move. I love walking through a forest or being near the ocean. I often look up to the sky and notice the clouds or the moon. I find I am able to see art everywhere. If you take a walk with me, I will probably snap some photos along the way to capture things that inspire me. It might be a leaf or flower, a colour of a painted wall, cracks in the pavement… I started an Instagram account called: Artislife._.Lifeisartto share these moments.
D: You and I have spoken a lot about colour in the past, what colour(s) or colour combinations really speak to you?
T: YES! I love love LOVE colour! I tend to be drawn into the cool colours - the blues and greens. But I also love a good contrast. Turquoise is definitely my favourite colour. I’ve recently been exploring metallics, especially gold and its different variations.
D: Your art is visually very exciting and rich in detail. I’ve always found it interesting how art can provide us with a narrative that is very much of our own creation. I feel that your art does this in abstract and divergent ways. I might see/create a narrative the first time I look at your work, and days later when I come back to it I find another detail which allows for the story to evolve. Are you conscious of this when you are creating? Or is it free- flowing and evolving?
T: Thank you so much! Yes, visual narratives often come up in my work, though like you said, in more abstract ways. My entire process is free-flowing and evolving. I let the art lead the way.
After I create a piece of art, I often will do some stream of consciousness writing about it. It is during this dialogue that the art tells me what it is about. I just have to open space and listen. I also like that anyone who views my art can create their own narratives and engage with it. Those stories may also evolve over time. I appreciate co-creation and I like to open space for others to see, feel and be inspired by my art. Hearing these stories reflected back at me is always amazing!