Jane Theau

Just shopping, always shopping

Australian Design Centre plays a critical role in celebrating the work of Australian artists who embrace the highest degree of craftsmanship and who continually explore material, process and ideas to advance contemporary craft and design practice.

Object Space is a window gallery located in the window of the ADC Offices on William Street in Darlinghurst. The exhibition space has direct street frontage, is accessible to view 24 hours a day and is lit for viewing at night.

On display 1 August - 25 September 2019 is the exhibition Just shopping, always shopping by designer Jane Théau.

Just shopping, always shopping is one of a series of large-scale lace drawings depicting people in unexceptional, everyday moments. These works are made from thread and tarlatan rescued from the garbage bin of the UNSW Art & Design printmaking studio. Jane Théau works with many media, concentrating most recently on woven horsehair combined with bronze sculpture, and textiles combined with dance and performance.

Jane is the Australian Design Centre Award winner of the Seed Stitch Contemporary Textile Awards 2018. She has also won the Rookwood Sculpture Prize, the Grace Cossington Smith Early Career Artist Award and has been a finalist in numerous exhibitions including the Black Swan Portrait Prize, the International Lace Award and the Tamworth Textile Triennial in 2020. She has for four years facilitated a refugee community art project at Auburn Community Centre and is in the final year of a PhD at the Australian National University. 

Her curatorial projects include exhibitions such as Y Fibre, www.w and the performance art event Art That Moves. Jane is collaborating with choreographer/filmmaker Sue Healey on her upcoming On View performances in Japan, Hong Kong and at Carriageworks in Sydney. You can see more of Jane’s work during Sydney Craft Week at Barometer and Maunsell Wickes Galleries in Paddington.

Jane Theau is an artist at Primrose Park Artist Studios and acknowledges North Sydney Council for their support in the provision of the studio space.

Image: Jane Théau, Just shopping, always shopping, 2017 Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Just shopping, always shopping - $3900 inc GST
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Jane Théau: In Conversation

This work places it's subjects in an ‘unexceptional moment’. What attracts you to the everyday?

This work was part of a series on the subject of overconsumption and how tethering ourselves to things ties us down. Shopping is an everyday activity that has in recent history morphed into a pastime. This has, as we all know, been a deliberate strategy to ensure constant economic growth. I'm not so sure most people see, or want to see, the connection between constant shopping and its global impact.

What are some of the technical challenges in your textile work?

The technique I use to make these large thread portraits has a lot of potential for disaster. I machine sew the image onto a dissolvable fabric - it's the dissolving that is the problem. What looks perfect pre bath can end up as an unrecognisable handful of wet thread. I have learned over the years to incorporate a minimal amount of fine wire for support without compromising the fluidity of the lace. Another issue arises because I hang these works, and they therefore need to have vertical integrity or they will be horribly distorted.

You mention this work is made from rescued tarlatan. Do you often rescue materials?  Why?

Yes I do. As you can tell from my first answer, sustainability is always at the back of my mind (and when I shop it's at the front!) I have been an anti-plastic activist for many years and taught a programme on plastics to primary school students for some years. I am so frustrated about the glacial pace of change in government policy on this issue. Wherever possible I use recycled or natural materials. The tarlatan I pull out of the garbage bins in the print room positively glow with the beautiful colours of the printmaking inks and cries out to be rescued and used again.  

Your current work uses horse hair. Why did you decide to use this material?

I'm in the final year of a PhD at ANU and its subject is tactility in contemporary art. Textiles are the most tactile of materials, and we have a natural affinity for them because they are on our skin all the time. We want to touch them, and I want people to touch the works I make because only in so doing can you really understand the volume, texture, weight and feel of them. I was made aware of the unique characteristics of horsehair because of strands escaping from my cello bow. Hair is a perfect metaphor for tactility because it is a product of skin so is a perfect vehicle for a body of work championing touch. It grows from within us, through the skin to the world outside - a conduit between us and our experience of the world. And it's also just a beautiful fibre.

What will we see in your upcoming exhibitions at Barometer and Maunsell Wickes Galleries?

My solo exhibition at Barometer Gallery (Oct 6-20) will have bronze sculptures adorned with woven horsehair, some wall works also featuring horsehair as well as videos I have produced of a dancer performing with my work. At Maunsel Wickes (Oct 2-13) will be more of these large scale lace works.