Tanya Ling

Tanya Ling is an artist, sculptor and fashion illustrator. Born in Calcutta, she studied at Central Saint Martin’s and worked as a designer in Paris before returning in the 90s to London to start an art gallery with her husband. She has made fashion illustrations for Louis Vuitton and Vogue and in 2011, the V&A acquired over 50 of her drawings. On July 14th, a new series (The Infinity Series) of machine made works on paper (The Star Works) will be launched on Ling’s online shop These Star Works, capture Ling’s famous line in a myriad of colour ways.  Here Ling talks to us about life under lockdown, her line drawings and taking over the Instagram feed of the Tate.

Where do you live in London and why?

We live in Wimbledon. It wasn’t planned.  My husband was an art teacher in a school in Chelsea and so our young family was offered a housing association flat in Wimbledon.  We’ve since moved twice but have stayed in SW19 where we’ve lived most of our adult life.

How has lockdown affected your creativity?
I’ve turned a downstairs room in our house into a studio where I have been making small oil paintings.

You work in many different mediums, from sculpture to painting and fashion illustration.  Is there a particular medium that you are drawn to at the moment?
Oil paint.  Evangeline, my youngest daughter has been making paintings with oil and has been lecturing me about it and my husband has also been encouraging me in that direction.  It was a two-pronged attack that I was incapable of resisting.

You have travelled extensively in your life.  How does this influence your work?  And particularly now that you haven’t been able to travel for a while?
I have a studio in South West France that I haven’t visited since January but a couple of years ago whilst in residence I made a series of paintings that shared the same palette as the summer landscape. It just happened that way. It’s not that I completely lack self awareness or the ability to reflect on my practice, it is that my process feels as if it is entirely instinctive and I’m not making self conscious calculations. For now, it’s great to be in one place for a change and it’s giving me an opportunity to keep working and to read much more.  Homer, CS Lewis and most recently, Douglas Smith’s Former People: The Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy.

Your line paintings are your signature works and a theme that has been constant throughout your career. Can you tell us why please?
A friend of mine offered me a space beneath the flightpath to Heathrow in an empty building next to Kew Gardens. It was big, clean and filled with natural light and I was able to make as much mess as I liked. I experienced a wonderful freedom and it was here that the first Line Paintings were made and that I later showed for the first time at Alex Eagle’s empty retail unit in Walton Street, South Kensington. My line can be found in the smallest detail in many of my fashion drawings; it is what links my career as a fashion illustrator and my career as an artist. Most artist’s have a calling card and for the time being, the Line Paintings are mine. Every great collection should have one :).

You are very present on social media.  Why do you like it?
When I started my Instagram account in 2012, I was playing with images and used the grid as a way to create digital art works just for my feed and consequently I gained a lot attention for doing so. As a result, I was asked to take over the Instagram feed of the Tate but it was a disaster. Their followers had developed an expectation that I didn’t meet and after 2 weeks of unflattering comments the plug was pulled on the project and it was abandoned :(.

Careful observers and followers of my feed will have noticed that there has been a slow and subtle shift away from the creation of digital imagery exclusively for my feed to photographs of actual art works that I have made. I maintain my account as it gives me pleasure and it has helped me connect with people I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with. In this it has been a useful servant.

Please can you tell us your 3 top Instagram accounts that you follow?

Now that lockdown is ending, which are your favourite restaurants and cafes that you are going to visit?
The Oyster Bar at Claude Bosi’s Bibendum, The Wolseley, Piccadilly for which we have a lockdown gift voucher and the new Chook Chook Indian Railway Kitchen in Putney (below).

What advice would you give a young artist starting out?
Be patient and immerse yourself in your work for it is in creating that the greatest pleasure and satisfaction can be found. Over time, if you’ve got something to offer, others will notice and doors will open.

What are your plans for the next year?  Any new shows/collaborations planned?
We are about to launch the Infinity Series which I hope will be a huge success and we are hoping to gain planning permission for a new studio in France where we will also be planting trees in November. We await to see what 2021 has in store.


Tanya Ling
— Francesca
8th July 2020