Tania Spencer was born in 1967 and has a small business background in fashion manufacturing and retail clothing. Tania lives and works rurally from Lake Grace, Western Australia. Although currently working with wire, Tania is a multi media artist and often works with recycled and found materials. While her work is deceptively simple in its form, the underlying social or environmental context, constantly questions our state of existence and awareness. She has exhibited since 2000 in group shows regionally as well as Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Japan, and her first solo exhibition in 2007 was in the Access Gallery, John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University, Perth, WA as the result of receiving the Curtin Guild Grant “On Show”.
Tania currently creates large scale knitted installations constructed with fencing wire and wire embroideries that are couched onto metal supports. Her tools are drills and hand bending jigs instead of needles, wire instead of yarn. Physically, Tania’s practice privileges the original hand makers’ mark in the technological age and values the practice of the passing on of hand making skills through the generations. Theoretically, Tania’s work addresses questions within the art/craft and gender debates by mixing soft textile processes with rural industrial materials and investigates the underlying human relationships in societal and environmental concerns.
Tania has a Bachelor of Arts (Art) from Curtin University and has participated in numerous art events including the Melville Art Awards, winning the 2006 Overall Judges Choice, the City of Melville Sculpture Walk (2007 and 2008), Castaways Sculpture Awards 2007 & 2010-11, winning the Castaways Alcoa Major Sculpture Award in 2010. She is a seven time exhibitor with Sculpture by the Sea, winning both the NAB WA Sculptors Scholarship and Kids Choice at at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe in 2008. In 2009 Tania was commissioned to create a sculpture at Northcliffe, WA, for the Southern Forest Sculpture Walk, now renamed Understory-Art In Nature. She exhibited in Mine Own Executioner & the Bunbury Biennale 10 Year Retrospective in 2011 and in Safekeeping at the Perth Town Hall in conjunction with the National Trust for National Heritage Week in 2012. Recent national exhibitions include Love Lace, The International Lace Award at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and Sensorial Loop, the 1st Textile Triennial in Tamworth, New South Wales.
She has had three solo exhibitions in Western Australia: Seeking Insight…Unity? (John Curtin Gallery, 2007); Searching (Kalgoorlie Mining Hall of Fame, 2008) and Introspective - Works from 2006-2008 (Painted Tree Gallery, Northcliffe, 2009). In 2011 she was awarded a Clitheroe Foundation Mentorship to work with Brian McKay and an Artstart Grant by the Australia Council .
Her work is represented in the Tamworth Regional Council Textile Collection, City of Melville(2006 &2008) and City of Bunbury Art Collections, Understory-Northcliffe Sculpture Walk, Gomboc Gallery and Sculpture Park and various private collections.
Tania has been a Sessional lecturer for Curtin Regional University Campuses and has taught community arts workshops throughout Western Australia. She is the co-owner of the Lake Grace Multi-Artspace, a community run artist gallery and workshop that was established to promote wheatbelt artists and deliver innovative arts experiences in a regional capacity; she holds workshops locally and is on the commitee of the Lake Grace Artists Group. Tania is represented in Western Australia by Gunyulgup Galleries, Yallingup.
My present knitted work is a blend of the ancient process of nalbinding (also known as ‘knotless knitting’ or ’single needle knitting’) viking knit and more recent knitting techniques along with a healthy dose of invention.
I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm with the usual obligatory tip.This tip contained everything ever used on the farm since settlement of the land. Farm tips are not tips in the usual sense; they really are the earliest of recycling yards. It was called the junk heap on our farm and everything in it had the potential for reuse. As children we played in this junkheap while my father would be seen searching around for just the right bit of metal for the current invention he was working on, usually something to make life easier or more efficient on the farm. Having our own farm now, this along with the hardware, farm supplies shop and the town tip, are my primary resources for materials. The materials that can be collected or sourced within a relatively local environment find their way into my art.
I have been surrounded by textiles beginning an early age, from being taught how to knit and crochet by my mother and grandmother, embroider and knot macrame from the ladies of the CWA, to growing wool, working in shearing sheds and later on garment manufacturing in the textile industry and retailing clothing. I was not very old when my father gave me a roll of copper wire recycled from a small electric motor he had pulled apart and my own pair of pliers to play with. Combining the techniques and materials was a natural progression and as a consequence most of my work is grounded in textile techniques or methods and constructed with industrial agricultural materials. This combination and influence of the rural ‘make do’ heritage and constant exposure to textiles finds form in my art practice.
Conceptually my work is about the emotional and physical relationships we have; the examination of our existence, and our perception of it, both physically and spiritually is the central theme to my work. Observing life, in relation to ourselves and each other within both the natural and social environment and the impact and connections that these interactions have, guides my practice. I consider the linear quality of the wire and how I form it as metaphor for how we are linked together, each stitch depending on the other for support. The collective stitches make a strong fabric. The interlinked areas and openings reflect the degrees of closeness or distance that we have with families, friends and the greater physical environment. Societal issues like belief systems, social conditioning, polarities in current opinion and our impact on ecological systems become subjects for my work. I try to build these layers of inherited or implied meaning from different perspectives into my work so that it is accessible in a number of ways and this is the ultimate aim.