Kasia Tons, born Adelaide (1985), is a Textile Artist living on Peramangk country of the Adelaide Hills. She creates colourful, chaotic soft sculptures, wearables and 2D pieces with obscured personal mythologies entwined with more universal themes of home, identity, belonging, connection and movement. Her current areas of interest are futuristic health, design and agriculture, the societal implications of excessive technology use as well as the traditions of story-telling and daily life. Her artistic influences are Judith Scott, Nick Cave and Anthony Stevens.
Hand embroidery has been central to her work since first picking up a needle and thread in 2006, but of recent years she has been actively exploring the use of larger movements with greater energetic output both as a physical expression for her feelings but also as a way to combat the RSI that comes with years of doing small, repetitive movements typical of embroidery.
She holds a degree in Textile Design, RMIT for which she received the DIA’s graduate of the year award and also an honours in Sculpture from UTAS. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia and Eastern Europe and she has participated in residencies and symposiums in Iceland, USA, Latvia and the Slovak Republic. The Mark Rothko Art Centre, Latvia holds two of her pieces as part of their permanent collection.Artist Statement
Who knew that over the course of this year our world would become even closer to the one described in the book that inspired me to create After.1
I set off at the end of 2019 for two months of walking. Embroidery in tow, for the purpose of plunging myself into a digitally reduced experience. Hiking up and down mountains, crossing rivers and having many conversations with fellow hikers about food, pack weight, weather and distance. Weather updates were hand written and left in huts by rangers who had walked in for this purpose and others. We were all having a direct experience of nature, each other and ourselves. An ever-changing community of intention. At times I was alone for days. My walking, punctuated by meals, tea, making fire, letter writing and embroidery.
A couple of weeks after returning from the walk the pandemic hit. Life went from feeling infinite in a natural sense to infinite in a digital sense. The internet was utilised like never before to socialise, to entertain and to document ourselves into mundanity.
I have always been aware of my screen addiction tendencies, partly why ‘The Machine Stops’ captured my attention so strongly as a text of foreboding. But I didn’t resist. I became as internet dependent as everyone else. I went to the theatre online, documented my attempts at food growing, documented my dog, documented myself and spoke most days with a different friend either through messaging or video calls. Only to feel a bit empty.
These two opposing experiences have fed into the work produced for this show. I have been interested in what I’ve heard from others during these times from a mental health perspective in addition to my own experience. This imagining of a future world where nature is valued and central, where there is deep connection with others and ourselves and where there is a return to handmade crafts is not a new idea. It is an image of Utopia that has been imagined with slight variations since ancient times.2
The recurring motifs of nature throughout the pieces are inspired both by the art of floriography3 and William Morris4, who, could very well be the environmental soothsayer as Forster is for digital technology. I wanted environmental connection to be the central force in this post screen addicted society. Alongside mask and costume that can provide both comfort, decoration and psychological expression as the wearer eases themselves from a world where they are very much in control of how they are seen with the plethora of filters and digital adornments to a world where they may feel a sense of exposure and nakedness.
The masks vary from obscuring the face entirely to being quite transparent and acting more as an adornment or real-life filter.
The role constructive chaos plays in transformation of society is a recurring theme I work with and is present here as well. We’ve seen this year how quickly life can change, the way we function, what we prioritize and what is meaningful. Both hiking in the mountains and living through a worldwide pandemic lockdown has shown that security in life is an illusion but our ability to problem solve, adapt and create is at the core of our nature and when we explore by choice or necessity these aspects of our self it can leads to a more satisfying experience.
1 The Machine Stops, E.M Forster, 1909 2 Utopia, the history of an idea, Gregory Claeys, 2020 3 Daffodil: new beginnings and also the common name for the genus scientifically known as Narcissus. Nasturtium: Impetuous love. Chrysanthemum: Truth. Bougainvillea: Passion; The Language of flowers, Mandy Kirby 2011 4 https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20190909-the-first-eco-warrior-of-design