Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada

Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada
Apiece Apart Woman: Johanna Tagada

We're always drawn toward and inspired by women who embody at once grace and empowered strength — who remind us that delicacy and boldness can beautifully, seamlessly coexist. Based in London, artist Johanna Tagada's work is a glimpse both into an aesthetic and a conceptual world that wholly stands for that duality. Born in the French countryside of Alsace, Johanna is an interdisciplinary artist whose works spans from painting to embroidery to sculpture, film, photography, and self-published periodicals. Exploring visual themes of positivity and nature that are rooted in deeper meaning, Johanna’s world is an inspirational one to become lost inside. We visited her at home to see a glimpse into her work and philosophy. 
Styling by Alexa Hotz, Photography by Kristin Perers 
Johanna is represented by Tappan Collective and Nidi Galllery

Apiece Apart Johanna Tagada

Can you share more about your background and upbringing? What has been most impactful in contributing to the woman you are today?
I was born and raised in the French countryside of Alsace. As I mostly lived at my grandparents who had a family-run permaculture garden, a lot was done by hand, with a certain touch of humor and quiet devotion. Alone, or with friends and family we would draw, play ‘library,’ make small books, dance, go to the garden to pick vegetables and flowers, sing, read, clean, cook, invent garments and plays, look at insects, trees, and animals. Add the Internet to it, and in a way, it is exactly what I do today.

It is only in my early adulthood that I came to realize how much joy and enthusiasm there was in the everyday little things of this life with my grandparents. A treasured memory is sitting on the back of my grandfather’s bicycle on a hot summer evening; it started to rain, and as it got heavier he rode faster from the garden to the house, and for an instant glanced back at me, smiling. This love and tenderness mostly fulfilled the sadness I felt that I could not always be with my own parents. It’s this same feeling of love that helped me to overcome the challenge that can come from being a person of mixed ancestry. It encouraged me, despite unfortunately not knowing the details of my own heritage, which is mostly French and North African, to both engage in and begin cross-cultural dialogues, as well as to learn new languages.
 
I have lived in Zürich, Berlin, and (presently) London for the past eight years, and return to Alsace regularly; my husband [artist Jatinder Singh Durhailay] and I plan to spend the future between Europe and Asia. Looking back, there has not one moment that has been the most important, rather all the little ones, all the encounters, friends, experiences and trials that make me the woman I am … and I believe that the feeling of hope plays a strong role in that.

Apiece Apart Johanna Tagada

Softness and delicacy — as well as brightness and joy — play roles in your interdisciplinary projects. How do these feelings manifest, overlap, and express themselves in your work?
In using inherent feelings of anxiety and choosing to make a positive outcome through resistance and strength, I manifest a lasting brightness and joy, both in my life and practice. [Awhile ago,] instead of attempting to pull out the anxiety within myself, like one would consider taking out weeds, I decided to make use of it. [Now,] as soon as I feel it, I work to react to and with it, rather then against it; unpleasant feelings can flower toward a feeling of peace. In my life and work it is primordial to do my best to be free from any form of cruelty, be it towards human, animal, or earth. I seek for both my life and work to have a positive approach, and to encourage ways of [incorporating this positivity] into daily life as a result. As an outcome I chose veganism a few years ago.

I personally think we humans have a tendency for hypocrisy, which is important to acknowledge in order to urgently engage with self-improvement; we are privileged with knowledge, and know of the right solutions, for example to teach our children and ourselves more honest history rather than whitewashed teachings where colonialism is mentioned at times as a little travel oversee. Or to choose plant-based diet to reduce pollution, and our carbon footprint. There are so many free websites and tools informing how to do the second while on a budget also. What is necessary is simply the will to do, rather than the ease of hypocrisy, as each daily choice has a political, social, and ecological meaning and impact.
I do not believe in a perfect path, and mistakes are here for us to learn. However, to assimilate we must recognize the wrong. I hope that the projects I participate in or initiate can help raise such interrogations and awareness. 
 
I work across various mediums including painting, drawing, textiles, installation, publishing, sculpture, photography, film, and writing. Softness mostly manifests through colors, shapes, textures, and concepts. In each of these fields it is important for me to do the work with my own hands, at times using traditional craft techniques, as in my textile installation.

I hope [that my work allows] for people to feel more serene and relaxed after spending a period of time—short or long—with the pieces. However, it’s really a relationship: you must approach them with an open attitude. Overall I would say that perhaps my practice is a kind reminder that soft is not necessarily the opposite of strong.

Apiece Apart Johanna Tagada

Rebecca Solnit wrote, “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” Tell us a bit more about how you embrace uncertainty in life.
By remembering what is certain. Death. This simple thought is grounding.
 

How do you show up and care for yourself?
Once a week, every week, on Sunday there is no phone, no Internet, no WiFi in my life. I also take such break for a week or more when possible, once a year.

Apiece Apart Johanna Tagada

The ceremony of tea is also a theme that reoccurs in your oeuvre. Can you share more about how you regard its history and ritual to have meaning beyond the act itself? And do you have any recommendations for a favorite or perhaps unexpected brew or pairing?
It’s togetherness — the space within and around — that I’m most interested in. This is intrinsic to tea and tea ceremony. Being together can also stand for being together with the self, and when people gather is it the beginning of something, too. Tea (or the act of sharing tea) is also about giving and receiving, about hospitality and generosity, gestures, and rhythms. All these are themes I explore regularly.
 
This year, with my dear friend Tilmann S. Wendelstein of "The Simple Society," we co-created a space for these tea-related explorations, a publication series titled Journal du Thé – Contemporary Tea Culture.
 
A great unexpected pairing is a cup of Indian Masala Chai tea with my grandmother’s French apple pie.

Apiece Apart Johanna Tagada

What are you reading right now? What books do you always recommend or have perhaps given as gifts?
I am currently reading "Stories from a Tearoom Window" by Shigenori Chikamastu, "Non-Referential Architecture" by Markus Breitshmid and Valerio Olgiati, and re-reading parts of "Ecofeminism" by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva.
 
I always recommend "Woman, Native, Other" by Trinh T. Minh-ha, and the novel "Lemon" by Kaji Motojiro.