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13 Questions: painter Tanya Raabe

by Zoe Breen

26th January 2010

Tanya Raabe is a disabled visual artist who specialises in painting. She says that she chooses to define her disability using the social model and refuses to be labelled by a medical term. Much of her work focuses on individual identity and how this can change given different contexts. She explains:

"Disability is part of my life's experiences therefore it is my art form"

Her current project, in collaboration with the Tate galleries, is called Revealing Culture: Head On. Over the course of 2010 she will be painting portraits of well-known faces in the disability arts scene in both the Tate Modern and the Tate Liverpool. People are invited to come and watch Tanya painting and chat to the artist and the sitter.

Tanya kindly downed paints and brushes to answer our 13 Questions.

For me 2009 has been...

Tanya Raabe
An artistic endeavour, for me to explore my art and to become a full-time artist. I found out in September that I had funding for my latest project, Revealing Culture: Head On. Also, my Who’s WhO exhibition has been travelled round the country during 2009.

If I ruled the world...

Access wouldn’t be an issue. In terms of architecture, a building wouldn’t just have a stuck on ramp at the side, those kinds of things would be inclusively created in the first design.

What things do you excel at?

Painting (of course), and at being determined to do what I want to do in the way that I want to do it.

Who would your ideal dinner guests be?

Frida Kahlo – I love her work and I’m sure she would have been a very passionate and driven individual, her husband Diego, because he’s a womaniser and I think he’d get on marvellously with my next guest Tony Heaton! (artist and sculptor) I've chosen Tony because I think he'd be the life and the soul of the party. Also, Michael Caine (just because I love him), and my best friend, Ann Young.
Michael Caine
Michael Caine gets invited to dinner     &nbsp

What can you not do without?

Chocolate! And I couldn’t live without red paint. You can do a lot with a red, and different types of red, but I think it would be cadmium red.

Which artist do you most admire?

Frida Kahlo. She tells a cracking disability story in her paintings without it having to be disability art – it’s just there. She was a feisty a woman and it would have been great to have met her.
Julie McNamara
Julie McNamara, singer, songwriter and storyteller     &nbsp

If you didn't live in the UK, where would you live?

In America. When I’ve been there it has been accessible, even though they still use the term ‘the handicapped’, which is quite annoying.

What should be invented that hasn't?

A really enjoyable gadget that gets you in and out of the bath, so that you could have a shower as well. Bathing's important because it warms my muscles and joints up.

What gets you excited?

I do love a gadget, if I find one that’s accessible for me to use, I love that. I’ve just got a new digital SLR camera which has a screen on the back which you can manipulate. It's brilliant because I can’t hold the camera up to my head.

Old media or new media?

I have a battle with the two, but even old media is new media now. I’m interested in the digital side of things and making paintings seen through digital media.

What do you do to relax?

I put the (Nintendo) Wii on and do my exercises. I use the balance board to do hoola-hoops and some muscle exercises. I have to fake it a bit because I can’t lift my arms in the same way. I do it, then it tells me that I’m unbalanced!

What are your hopes for 2010?

My hope is to be even more recognised as an artist, as a disabled artist, and to be very successful.

Revealing Culture: Head On - where you can see Tanya at work

Paintings used to illustrate this piece are by Tanya Raabe, photographs courtesy of Tate Modern.

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