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Wednesday 8 July 2020

In conversation with Tahira Mandarino

In this Beyond the Frame interview we talk with local artist who delights in the use of many different media to express their artistic vision.  

Welcome artistauthor, educator, filmaker and yoga teacher, Tahira Mandarino. 

Tahira Mandarino

Could you say a little bit about yourself and what or who got you into art? What were your influences back then?

From an early age art was the one thing that I felt I could excel in, I loved drawing and finding ways to really study an object or complete a task I was given. I was lucky to be taken to the galleries in London by a friend of my mum’s and introduced to all the great masters. I remember buying Claude Monet’s Poppies as a poster and being captured by his style of painting and the impressionists.

I studied Foundation at Hounslow College and loved the freedom it gave me, encouraging me to try out different techniques in the art and design field. I went on to choose Ceramics as a BA and studied at Wolverhampton University. After leaving college I set up my own business called Natural Calm and designed a range of Ceramic Lighting, which was inspired by nature and the desire to create lighting based on pebbles, bringing the outside into the interior.

I shared a studio on Eel Pie Island, where I met my husband who is also an artist and we have two amazing children who are also very creative.

In 2012 I took some time out and decided to go back and study a Fine Art Masters at Wimbledon School of Art. My mother had passed away suddenly and so I was left a small amount of money which I used to pay for my course. As a mature student, I was able to review my practice and have time to explore myself as an artist, one of the hardest things can be to actually say, ‘I’m an artist’ and be confident with this.

You work with such a variety of different media including film and a book, Hidden Islands, could you explain the different approach that you give each one of these and what makes you decide? Is it a feeling for the work starting with the subject matter or the materials?

I explored a variety of media, during my time at college I was exposed more to the idea of site responsive work, where you are given a brief or a location and asked to respond with an artwork. This I really enjoyed as I like the challenge of what ideas might arise. I totally trust my instincts and when visiting a location or reading a brief, I wait for what inspires me. The film I made was a time-lapse piece filmed at Turner’s House in St Margaret’s. It was just before they received funding for renovation. It was during an ‘Open Drawing Day’ that I visited the house and felt it was important to capture this transitory moment when I knew the history of the building in its current state would shift forever. The time-lapse captured the light changing in the main room over a 24 hours period, conjuring a timeline of all the inhabitants including Turner who was particularly interested in light, he designed his house to invite the maximum amount of light to enter in and fill the rooms.

The main theme within my work is to explore hidden moments, uncovering a feeling or memory that has been buried, inviting a new relationship that the artwork can evoke.

So usually it is the space or theme that I will respond to first and then choosing the medium that will best describe what I want to communicate. I am able to adapt to using different materials which allows for greater freedom of expression.

Artist Tahira Mandarino at work

Could you tell us more about your work with Raw Ground Arts and has working with businesses had an effect on you?

Raw Ground Arts is founded by both myself and my husband, we felt it was a good time to join forces and build on all our collective experiences as both artists and educators in our field. We very much enjoy working with people and how art can be used as an effective tool to develop creative thinking in a wider context for businesses, communities and education. This led us to create our Drawing Matters programme, which is designed to inspire young people to find their own unique style and way of expressing themselves.

We have worked with big organisations including Kew Gardens, Commonwealth, British Council, Science Museum and The London Transport Museum delivering workshops and events. These types of engagements have of course been postponed currently during COVID-19. I enjoy being able to meet the public and engage, it motivates me to see how they relax and reconnect to their innate creativity and I am always stimulated by this for my own work.

You are also a yoga teacher, could you explain how this relates to your view or the world and your art?

Yoga or any mindfulness practice is essential for the time we are living in, there has to be time in our everyday to get a glimpse of being at one with ourselves and introducing an awareness to our mind and body. My yoga is an extension of my creative practice and even if I don’t practise every day I have it, whenever I need it especially during busy times when I need to slow down.

I would say that our younger generation who are experiencing such significant changes need to connect more through ‘creative thinking’ in order to feel confident about their future.

2020 has been a very strange year so far; what or who is your inspiration today and has 2020 changed your process, style or subject matter?

2020 has not been the year I imagined, this is true; as a front-facing business our work stopped, so we had to get creative fast and shift our Drawing Matters workshops to an online platform. My inspiration today is staying connected to my practice, seeing so many people look to art has been incredible and how much it can do for our well-being. Seeing people adapt to our changing landscape and those continuing to work on the frontline is humbling.

I am spending time in the studio, collating previous work and connecting to new and inspiring projects through social media and I shall see where that takes me next. It is nice to have some time to catch up.

Alfred Vickers - Orleans House, 1840 (circa)

Finally why did you choose Orleans House, 1840 by Alfred Vickers from the Borough Collection for your piece, Finding Orleans in our current Beyond the Frame exhibition?

I was looking for a painting with a familiar local view, I was drawn to the way it was framed within a circle. My starting point was to go and find the view of where it was painted, which is across the river near Ham House and then recreate the painting with my own interpretation. The result is an enquiry into the view as it is now and how the view is timeless. The introduction of two young modern figures to this scene adds an almost ghostly quality as they are not looking at the viewer but suspended within the cut out frame.

Finding Orleans 2020 - Tahira Mandarino

Finding Orleans 2020 is a Giclee Print by Tahira Mandarino for the Beyond the Frame exhibition. Find out more about Tahira’s ideas for the piece in her original Artist Statement below.

Finding Orleans 2020 - Tahira Mandarino

My work is based on finding dierent ways of interpreting absence, a hidden language of uncovering what we cannot see and nding dierent ways of illustrating the reveal. 

The idea of illusion is also currently relevant to my work. 

I have chosen to explore and navigate the area to which the original painting by Vickers was sited. Finding Orleans hidden amongst the trees barely visible leads us to consider how the landscape and viewpoint has altered but is still preserved. 

You can see more examples of Tahira’s work at and her work with Raw Ground Arts at

You can also view the entire Richmond Borough Art Collection online, at the Collection link on our main navigation bar, or by clicking here.