Tia-Ansell.jpg

TIA ANSELL

Your work references the urban landscape in response to architectural structures and patterns in public space.  Can you talk about some of the buildings which you have used recently, and how you employ architectural structures in your work?

Architecture is one of the more prominent influences on my work. The application of weaving, especially within architecture, is concerned with design, tectonic structures and construction. Gottfried Semper (see his book The Four Elements of Architecture) developed the relationship of weaving to architecture, with the distinct lineage of a building developing from the traditional woven wickerwork (of natural materials like branches or leaves) of a wall. 

Weaving is similar to architecture; both start with a blueprint and end with a production process. At every stage of making, the blueprint, process and product are bound to laws of the grid. In an urban-scape, grids are everywhere, for example, in the windows of a building and in the organisation of a city. In my assemblages, threads meet at right angles, and clay is cut, cropped, geometrised and organised. Each piece can fit into each other and go on forever, like a patchwork.  

Some buildings are of importance to particular works. I turned them into an icon or symbol for navigation. Particular walls or facades remind me of patterns in fabric. For instance, the building at 120 Collins Street, the third tallest building in Australia, has a distinctive postmodern design. It has granite tiling and setbacks, and alternating bands of lines which intersect at right angles resulting in blocks that repeat vertically and horizontally. I walked past this building every day for four years. I took the pattern of this building and incorporated it into every weaving I made during that time, applying each intersecting line to a corresponding coloured thread. This was the beginning of the blueprint that I have applied to every subsequent weaving I’ve made: gathering information on a location, turning that information into a code, matching that code to a corresponding thread, and then repeating to create a pattern. 

Grids have a seemingly limitless potential. Can you talk about the significance of the grid for you? 

The grid equals Rosalind Krauss right? The symbol of modernity. 

Grids are longitudes and latitudes, they measure and calculate space, they set meridians and territories, they are fixed yet divide, they are a mixture of things. 

For me, the grid is a tool to bring all my parts together to form an assemblage. An assemblage can be defined as ‘a collection or gathering of things or people, a machine or object made of pieces fitted together, a work of art made by grouping together diverse objects, and the action of gathering or fitting things together’ (Oxford Dictionary).

The construction, layout and arrangement of a grid implies a connection in which no part operates alone, and taken together the parts exceed their individuality and transform into a blend, a compositional unit. 


Can you discuss the influence of Mesoamerican textiles on your weaving?

My interest in weaving began as a kid. In New Zealand we had numerous projects creating traditional harakeke (flax baskets or fans). At the age of 12, I travelled to South America, visiting Argentina and Peru, where I saw traditional pre-Incan, pre-Colombian woven artefacts and visited a weaving workshop. 

I began bringing weaving into my practice at art school.  The first weaving I made was a map of South Melbourne. I was fascinated with inserting my own methodology of psychogeography in the construction of fabric, as a double-sided form, and as an immersive full body experience. 

I noticed one of the books in your studio on the Ukrainian-born French artist Sonia Delaunay, noted for her strong use of colours and geometric shapes. What parts of her practice do you relate most to or are Influenced by?  

Ha! You’re nosey!

I was introduced to Sonia in high school. I bought that book when she had a retrospective at the Tate Modern. I was, and still am, particularly drawn to her fabric constructions and sample sheets she made at her time with Metz & Co, an avant-garde Dutch Emporium. She created over 2,000 fabrics for the store, bridging the relationship of art and fashion.

Sonia really was a liberator of colour and design; she juxtaposed colour with contrasting shapes to create patterns in almost every way. For me, colour and shape are incredibly important when creating an abstract image, and by expanding this composition from the 2D to a 3D shape with a kinetic application, you could think about an image in a completely different way. Her clothing were wearable artworks.  

There is a direct connection between the bold and vibrant colours in your work and the natural landscape. Compositionally, are there colours that you are always drawn to?

My choice of colour is more often than not derived from the natural world, or even from the habitable landscape. Depending on where I draw my patterns from, typically the colours will match the landscape or location. There are colours that I am more drawn towards: greens, greys, warm reds, light and dark blues, and even purple sometimes. 

It is important to have the location of where I gather my code that creates the patterns, but also, to be aware of composition that contributes to the intensity of my patterns. Contrasting colours and shades have a larger impact. Particular colours that sit next to each other may vibrate or even swallow each through dominance. I have learned a lot about colour and colour theory while making these works. 

When it comes to ceramics there are uncertainties at play; glazes are incredibly unpredictable. The choice of base colour, the glaze or order of layers, and even the location on the kiln shelf will impact the final colour. I usually choose one dominant colour and then slightly alter each subsequent glaze to create a collection of tiles that will have a similar colour or sheen to the others.    

Some of your larger weaving utilise a patchwork approach by sewing together smaller weavings.

Patchworking is one of the approaches I use when finishing off a work. Once I’ve made each part, I assemble them together in a grid structure. There is no indication where it began, and it can continue growing. 

Patchwork I, is the first of its kind. I have made two now. It’s constructed of a months’ worth of weaving on the loom. Each weaving does not exceed 30 x 40cm. Some share the same warp, as I make them in one continuous weaving with 10cm intervals. This piece came about from the patchwork approach I employed while constructing my tiled weaving assemblages, and I thought: why not use this method in an on-mass mono-material construction. 

When I assemble the works there are a few things at play: the size of each part, separating each weaving that shares the same warp, the amount of parts, and obviously the size of the piece in its entirety. That particular piece I constructed on the ground, but fixed it to the canvas while on the wall to see how and where it would fall due to its weight. The tensions at play while you’re weaving will impact the warp/weft balance or warping. Particular materials are more elastic than others and that too can lead to warping.

Interview Kyneton | Melbourne 2019
Edited by Sarah Coles