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Louise Weaver
In conversation with Rachel Kent

more: Louise Weaver
Rachel Kent: Louise, you made your first crochet piece in 1994. Twelve years on, what are your principal concerns as an artist? How do you feel your work has evolved or shifted over time?

Louise Weaver: The first crocheted object I made was called I am transforming an antler into a piece of coral by crocheting over its entire surface, 1994. The title was self-explanatory in terms of the process and concept. I wasn't interested in reproducing nature's appearance, as much as exploring its way of working: through regrowth, decay, metamorphosis, transformation etc.

These early animal and tree-branch works were also concerned with the idea of simultaneous revelation and concealment. In exploring the idea of a tightly woven 'skin' across various surfaces, I have also become aware of the types of psychological spaces within - literally 'bound up' in - the work. These are aspects that remain and have continued to evolve in my work.

I am also interested in formal issues of colour, placement, spatial concerns and the desire to create quite immersive environments.

RK: Another interest of yours seems to be the idea of transformation and how this is manifested through crochet and surface ornamentation. You transform objects physically, but also conceptually: changing outward appearances, revealing underlying structures. You often use the word camouflage in relation to your work; can you explain? Colour is clearly significant in this process.

LW: The idea of camouflage relates on one level to real events or occurrences in nature: for example, a weasel becomes an ermine in winter time, transforming its outward appearance to become re-established in a new season. Its coat becomes white as a form of literal camouflage. My work Invisible bird, 1997, was similarly covered in white sequins to camouflage it visually in its new, white gallery environment.

But camouflage is for me both a physical and psychological state: a way of transforming meaning as well as outward appearance. The animal and plant forms I use don't always resemble real, identifiable entities - so people can create their own meanings in response to abstract form, shape, colour, and so forth. They create their own forms, and with them, new readings.

The idea of 'becoming', both physically and conceptually, interests me in relation to nature. Colour camouflages form on a visual level. But it also acts at a psychological level, through mimicry or the taking on of aspects of the environment around us. This allows for a sense of reinvention, which can be liberating. Colour is significant in nature: it can attract, and it can warn or repel. There is an inherent contradiction in things being desirable and repellent.

RK: I'd like to follow up on this idea of contradiction - and ambiguity - as a driving force in your art. Would you elaborate?

LW: I am interested in the way the crocheted surface of my works might remind the viewer of a potential bandage used to create an immobile environment for healing - however, that compression and immobility can also be almost torturous. It can be therapeutic and painful simultaneously.

Contradictions exist also in the combinations of forms. They may be natural or manmade, found objects or forms I've constructed myself. To loosely paraphrase Andr´ Breton, one form has the ability to transform into another with no breachable gulf existing between entities. For example my 2005 installation no small wonder included two Japanese rice-wine gourds joined together, facing one another, and covered with crochet. The gourds individually have obvious cultural significance. I am interested in whether altering forms like this allows the inherent qualities of the objects to exist simultaneously with the new configuration, or whether they may be eradicated.

The animal forms are particularly ambiguous as the gender of the original form is often disguised and exaggerated through a variety of devices. Often the viewer's perspective is revealing, in terms of what they may see in the work as a reflection of their own desires or ideas.

RK: Your work is frequently discussed in terms of its meticulous construction and emphasis on surface finish. Is there room alternatively for chance or even error?

LW: My work is often seen in technical terms as being quite obsessively constructed. The crochet- and embroidery-covered surfaces suggest this to the viewer, yet the conceptual process underlining the works is open to chance and spontaneity.
This happens by allowing change and variation to occur during the physical construction of the work, in the selection and evolution of titles for works, and thirdly in being open to recognising the potential of found objects as the basis for my sculptures and installations. I have also used chaotic elements such as random, chance-like 'scribble' across works on paper (sound waves for instance) which are then meticulously embroidered emulating order and chaos in science and nature. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, is compelling for me. I think about my sculptures as being quite absurdist in their obsessive elaborations of surface and construction.

RK: May I ask you about your current commission for Art & Australia, which represents a new way of working for you. How did this project come about and what prompted you to create 'Guido'? This is a two-part work, both a journal cover design and a limited edition artwork. Tell me more ...

LW: I don't often work in response to commissions, but this project has proven to be incredibly captivating and creatively interesting. I have been allowed artistic control of the project, not only in terms of the creation of the sculpture, but also in the design of the cover and two subsequent pages.

The sculpture Guido Valdez (Vendetta for love), 2006, is a taxidermed Pacific Gull that has been transformed into a fantasy creature: part matador, part Latin wrestler, part carnival performer. This work was generated in response to the practical spatial requirements of the journal cover itself, and the desire to create a work that evoked the sense of a traveller, circumnavigating the world and adopting various material and sensorial qualities - something that would extend the dialogue with an audience (or readership), and evoke a poetic visual sensibility that is perhaps both humorous and also potentially provocative.

The edition is an extension to the commission; it consists of a cross between a 'show bag' and 'fan bag', containing various mysterious objects pertaining to Guido Valdez's mythical and fantastic journeys. In the edition I have included a collaborative sound-recording as a natural extension of the project. I have worked most recently with sound in the installation no small wonder to create a sensorial environment and introduce elements beyond the purely visual.

This interview appears in the Autumn 2007 issue of Art & Australia, and accompanies a feature article on Louise Weaver by Jason Smith.

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