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Unexpected discoveries in routine environments

Thea Anning’s creative journey finding hidden gems through ‘Everyday’ experiences.

The Tate Modern has just launched the first major exhibition of Anni Albers’ life works.  Albers study at the Bauhaus during the early 1920’s led into textiles due to her being refused entry to painting on the grounds of being female.  She became one of the most influential textile artists of the twentieth century, identified by her clean crisp line and abstract pattern through weaving and printmaking.  Paul Klee tutored Albers’ during those Bauhaus years, she thought of Klee as a genius, unbeatable in his ability to marry the abstract and geometric with the natural and organic.  Albers looked at the parallels between architecture and textile design in her essay, The Pliable Plane: Textiles in Architecture, she states: “Both are ancient crafts, older even than pottery or metal work. In early stages they had in common the purpose of providing shelter, one for a settled life, the other for a life of wandering, a nomadic life. To this day they are characterized by the traits that made them suited to these two different tasks, obvious in the case of building, obscured, more or less, in that of textiles.”

Textile design has a legacy of being regarded, “Women’s Work”, with the added categorisation of “Craft”.  Now, as the Tate Modern begins to re-address the balance by celebrating the pioneering work of many textile artists, the association of “Craft” no longer holds such negative connotations.  There is a wider understanding that skill, tenacity and meticulous investigation is required to create textile works, whether installation pieces or global design. For many artists such as Albers, this is their life’s work, a total dedication.  However, for many, time is precious and it is difficult to juggle work, life-balance, in the pursuit of textile design or study.

Therefore, it was really exciting to discover Thea Annings work at assessment and through tutoring her over the past year or so.  The work Thea submitted for Ideas and Processes illustrated how she could find inspiration through her ‘everyday’ life. This was essential because Thea works full-time and has a busy family life.  Elements were found in both the natural and manmade environments. The course is structured to promote exploring new lines of enquiry, looking at things in a different more investigational manner, finding interest in overlooked areas.  Thea began to see exciting elements that at first glance we perhaps fail to notice. This new way of observing spaces, opened exciting avenues. Velocity, car park in Sheffield, where Thea parked her car every day offered cracked concrete and stained walls, functionary door plates within her office block became possible studies at closer inspection.  These components were documented via rubbings, photographic imagery and observational drawing. Thea’s sketchbooks evidenced this creative journey, extending ideas and concepts via developing these initial sources of inspiration. Mixed media studies, prints, colour palettes, mark making and sampling informed by ‘every day’ encounters. Thea works with precision, skilfully applied techniques, sensitivity to materials and attention to detail.  As you can see from the images included, there is cohesion within the work, the connections are clear as each piece belongs to the whole, but retains its own identity.

This connection to architecture and natural form fits beautifully with some of Albers’ thinking and practice.  Many of Thea’s prints became quite abstracted however there still remains a sense of the natural or organic within the aesthetic.  Our buildings retain qualities of the environment, whether in construction materials, the openings, and windows to view the outside spaces, or within the wear caused by human intervention. Plants grow up between cracks and so nature weaves a way within and it here, that I can see the relevance of Albers’ work today and her theories of connecting shelter, protection and architecture with textiles.  In a similar way Thea, worked with the relationship between buildings and the natural space, extracting traces of human or organic interaction, using this to inspire successful and viable design outcomes.
We see here, how many artists foster an engagement with the world they inhabit.  Gabriel Kuri’s work investigates global consumerism, integrating everyday life into installation and sculptural form with found and recycled materials.  Alice Fox records daily walks observing line, texture and pattern, recording changes, documenting her experimental investigations with found materials, maintaining a dialogue with the natural environment.  Veronica Ryan uses seeds, shells and pods, elements of her childhood growing up in the Caribbean. Pillow forms suggest comfort, safety, and nurturing, the placement of these at floor level encourages a sense of connection to the earth, nature and the cycle of life.

This engagement with the ‘everyday’ supports artists’ work being relevant and of it’s time, contemporary.  Thea’s work is also relevant and has a narrative that speaks of modern Britain, working women, commuting across boundaries of home into the natural and manmade environment.  Well done, Thea, and good luck with your next course, we look forward to seeing where this takes you!
The Importance of Anni Albers’ Textiles: At Tate Modern
The Pliable Plane: textiles in Architecture
The Tate, Anni Albers
Paul Klee & Anni Albers
New Yarns: The Tate:
Gabriel Kuri:
Alice Fox:
Veronica Ryan:
Thea Anning blog: Ideas and Processes:

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Posted by author: Lizzy Levy
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