Self Portrait by Tamara Krendel

Artist's Statement


I've painted for as long as I can remember.

I received my BFA and my MFA degrees in Painting from the University of Pennsylvania in 1977 and 1979, with a fellowship to Yale-Norfolk in 1976, and a fellowship at Yaddo in 1979.   During 1980 and 1981 under grants from the Fulbright Commission and from the Belgian Ministry of Dutch Culture I pursued a post-graduate program in Northern Renaissance painting techniques and independent studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium, in Northern Renaissance painting techniques and in independent studies, through grants from the Fulbright Commission and The Belgian Ministry of Dutch Culture.

Tamama at Hadrians Wall
Tamama at Hadrians Wall
View from Hadrian's Wall, oil pastel on paper, 2005

The Northern Renaissance was of interest to me because of their unique way of translating what they saw. They painted from direct observation using their eyes to find their own personal perspective and forms. Their people look like real people, and their sense of space was more intimate and intuitive as opposed to the Southern Renaissance where an idealized human form and a mathematical perspective was held up as a standard to strive for.

Additionally in the North the light was rarer, therefore moments of light were more strongly felt, more personal. Colors are often more intense and the light more intimate. I was interested in the Northern Renaissance's unique light and atmosphere, particularly as depicted by the Belgian painter Jan Van Eyck. Religious painting was no longer purely devotional and now included views of the natural world purely for visual pleasure. There was a religious and spiritual intensity behind Van Eyck's paintings which made every detail important; everything seen by God was good.

Tamama Hadrians Wall

Light on Mountains and Trees Across The Lake,
8" by 12", oil pastel, 2005

Tamama Hadrians Wall

Tamara Krendel working at Hadrian's Wall,
photos by David Krendel, May 2005

In my work I have always been interested in reality as it is perceived and felt directly through seeing. I am interested in how light and color discovered through direct observation uncovers and inspires the spirit and poetry in observed reality- how light and color transforms what you see and the serendipitous  poetry that occurs in the process

I painted for many years on location from direct observation, choosing a subject that intrigued me, and a period of light that evoked the particular spirit of that subject. As things grew and changed with the light over time, the structural variables within the painting changed in new and exciting ways, establishing a dialogue between the painting and the perceived reality where imagination, instinct and the unconscious could come into play. In this way I felt I was able to get closer to the mysterious spirit and poetry of light and place.

More recently I have been composing paintings from a compilation of imagery; studies, sketches, photographs etc. This change in approach hasn’t altered my work’s “feel” because when I painted observationally “on location” I wasn’t recording an objective reality, but was seeking subjects that triggered me imaginatively.

I identify my artwork as "poetic realism,” artwork that conveys a sense of magic, mystery and/or transcendence that brings to mind visual poetry. There is a kind of poetry in the ordering and revealing of seen and unseen worlds through visual expression and in the creating of personal windows that open to and/or illuminate private and universal realities.

Tamama Hadrians Wall

Closeup of Tamara, taken by Ezra S. Krendel,
Feb. 27, 2004, Opening of Finned & Feathered

While my work has undergone various changes of style and medium over the years, certain forms have continued to interest me. One form which has occurred in my still-life paintings on and off for the past thirty years, and which epitomizes an elusive  ineffable quality that is the  quintessence and ultimate subject in  all of my work,  is a small fishbowl containing a magic clam.

Magic clams are clamshells filled with a system of paper flowers, leaves and small paper floats that are closed, then sealed with a simple strip of paper. The paper dissolves slowly in a glass of water and the shell opens revealing a red paper flower. It appears as if by magic.

When I was a child my mother used these magic clams as party favors. I can still vividly remember believing that they were magic.  It is that unique time in childhood when there is magic that these paintings evoke, celebrate, or simply stand in as a beacon or a muse. A period where all is possible and every child is an artist. And for those transcendent moments in the imagination and during the creative process, when one feels that ineffable sense of magic and mystery.

- Tamara Elizabeth Krendel