Art often feels unreachable, kept at a distance behind gallery ropes. Look, yes, but do not touch. And yet, touch is what stirs Ivana Taylor’s desire to make art with textiles and timber, her hands making sense of the materials and the forms taking shape before her. “It’s the first love language we learn when we’re first held,” says Ivana. “The concept of kinaesthetic learning always appealed to me and it’s become bound in my practice.”
The child of a costumier, Ivana says she got a taste for making and inventing things with her hands from a young age. “I’ve always been a sensual creature. As a kid I watched my mum who is a costume maker transform a scrappy sketch into a garment that fit the actor so beautifully, and my dad played a big role in teaching me how to build things.” She recalls always having a bounty of fabric at home, which gave her fingers a taste for texture. “Mum taught me how making things gives you a unique sense of autonomy and outlet of expression. To make beautiful things with your hands is important to me. It’s like the out-picturing of an inner world.”
Ivana would be introduced to functional art and textile sculpture years later while completing her Honours project. “The work I did was research-driven and became a sculptural expansion of tangled tubular ‘roots’ that wrapped around a banyan stump. It looked at the ‘knots’ in pieces of Australian history,” Ivana says. She describes her project as shamelessly sculptural but “comfortable to sit on” nonetheless. That her art and design practice would experiment with tactility and textile structures like interlacing, weaving, knitting, knotting and stitching is no surprise. “When I was a kid I’d tie my hair up with six hair bands and lace my shoes as tight as they’d allow,” Ivana says. “Wrapping is a more productive channel that satisfies that control.” Harnessed through her practice, the tension Ivana describes turns into something soothing. “It is very therapeutic. There’s a beautiful balance in building a structure in bendy ply and dyeing and wrapping in fluid textiles. I love the challenge, mess and meticulous process of laminating when I’m making structures as much as I love the rhythm and quiet of wrapping and dyeing with the linen.”
The duality of Ivana’s practice, the sensuality and structure, is embodied by her Interloop sculptures, which can be suspended solo or play in groups of twos and threes. These works materialised during the Covid pandemic, when Ivana returned to basic textile skills to satisfy her “need to make”. When she could finally return to her timber workshop, a few “happy accidents” resulted in loop structures that led to the wrapped Interloop sculptures she is known for today. Is there something human in the sculpture’s hard skeleton interior and fleshy outer layer? “Absolutely,” says Ivana, who welcomes the ways in which people interpret her artworks. “I love how people read dancing figures or the mother and child motif within them. I often start with a gesture or movement I’ve felt or observed — something like a hug, kiss or spin — and the loops emerge from that.”
Ivana’s education and inspirations include the monumental feats of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artists who wrapped landmarks and great stretches of coastline in fabric, and the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, “largely because of her philosophy and how she took joy seriously in her art”. Another pivotal influence has been Adelaide’s JamFactory, an organisation that nurtures emerging Australian talent in art, craft and design. Selected for the JamFactory Associate Program 2019-2020, Ivana gained the skills required to build simple furniture (which of course she would then wrap). Ivana was mentored by the likes of Andrew Carvolth and Dean Toepfer of Mixed Goods Studio, and she would eventually work for JamFactory and create her Bound and Beau benches and stools — slab structures swallowed by tubes of linen that doubled as sculptural upholstery.
Now represented by Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert, Ivana is back home in Manly after living and working in Adelaide for four years. She’s experimenting with what she calls column wraps, born from an interest in larger scale wrapping and how wrapping can speak to architectural spaces. “The column wraps physically and symbolically swallow concrete columns, a common architectural structure,” Ivana explains. Swaddled in fabric, the columns transform from cold to warm magnets of touch, and they also have the potential to absorb and catch sound. One hopes these new textile towers will make an appearance at her next solo show in 2024 with Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert.