Tamara Henderson’s crowd at Rodeo

Tamara Henderson: Seasons End: Painting Healer

When I first entered Rodeo’s second floor gallery to see works by Canadian artist Tamara Henderson,  my first impression was that too much had been crammed into too small a room. In most art galleries these days, paintings or sculptures have plenty of room to breathe. Indeed, often they can seem quite lonely surrounded by white wall. Not here. Every bit of wall and window is covered and the room is stuffed with 30 different creations.

Apart from the wall coverings, most of them are roughly human size and roughly human shaped. The bodies are a sort of kaftan, rectangular, made out of elaborately decorated and appliqued fabric. There is in each case a discernible head, albeit one made of something like feathers or metal coils. They all have block-like feet. A tremendous amount of work has gone into making them.  Some of  them are almost transparent; that, plus the sheer numbers, made photographing them difficult.

This first reaction that they needed a room at least twice the size, quickly gave way to pleasure as I realised that each of these creatures had a personality and, wandering through them, was like wandering through a crowd. The attendant at the gallery described them as costumes but they weren’t costumes – I decided; they were people. It turned out they had names.: some of the names illuminated. My mother in Ashes sadly seemed clear enough. The figure contained a representation of an urn.

Tamara Henderson: My Mother in Ashes

in other cases, the names made you wonder about their history. Who was Brenda? What was the story behind Wait in Blue Pearls? I really wanted to know more.  I visited an earlier exhibition of Henderson’s work at Rodeo a couple of years back and enjoyed it but this time the work seemed far more complex and exciting. The crowding is part of what makes it.


Season’s End: Painting Healer is showing at Rodeo, 125 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0EW,  till 29 July