Ptolemy Mann started weaving because she couldn’t paint. Or so said one of her teachers at London’s Central Saint Martins, who directed a young Mann to textiles. Yet she still thinks of herself as a painter, even after 25 years of threading cotton yarn through a dobby loom. “To me, a ‘painting’ is woven cotton stretched over a frame,” Mann says. “I apply the paint—in this case, the dye—before the cloth is woven.”
As witnessed in her 2018 Chlorophyllia series, Mann uses the ancient ikat technique to modern effect: dip-dying threads into multiple colors, and then weaving them into abstract wall-based artworks reminiscent of Mark Rothko paintings. Influenced by the Bauhaus weavers, Mann finds that the loom’s limitations channel her creativity into color. “I go into the dye lab and let the color come,” she says. “It’s a loose, expressive process.”
“My work flirts with the dynamic of restriction, control, and spontaneity.”
In 2014, Mann established her own rug line in collaboration with Rugmaker for residential and commercial projects, including the soon-to-open Virgin Hotel Nashville. She’s also had an architectural color consulting service for nearly 15 years. For all, Mann communicates emotion through chroma and value, which will be visible in Circadian Rhythm, her long-term installation commissioned by Tate Modern, debuting at its Level 9 Restaurant in November.