Exhibition Visit: Not to Scale: Costumes for Performance By Alex Rigg

The Not To Scale exhibition is on at the Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries from 16 July to 10 September 2016.

Alex Rigg is an artist and performer, making designs for theatre and dance, and also site specific pieces. Rigg says “Costume and make-up help both the performer and the audience to suspend disbelief and enter the story fully”.

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This costume caught my eye, having recently researched Sanquhar knitting. It looks like a Samurai warrior’s outfit. Behind and to the left are a pair of crab pincers made from agricultural waste and aluminium. I admire the artist’s imaginative use of unusual materials and recycling.

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This Mushroom Skirt & Jacket are made from Geotex, plywood, castors, and upholstery fabric, for a performance called Pollen, in 2012. The Geotextile is normally used in gardening and agriculture, so it was interesting to see how effectively it could be worked with in this costume: pleated, swirled, shaped, cut and paint-splattered.

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Alex Rigg explains that the way the costume behaves when worn by the performer is an important part of the rehearsal process. The design of the pieces is an integral part of the choreography. The performers develop a language of gestures derived from the landscape and from specific performance sites, including the architecture. His work has been inspired by the landscape paintings and architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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For example, for a recent performance called “Un-looking“, the costumes were derived from abstracting forms from Mackintosh’s 1920s landscape watercolours of Southern France – featuring rocks, buildings, land and sea scapes.

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Lizard Coat, Half Chaps, Waistcoat and Trousers, upholstery fabric, silk, leather. Performance: Polleniser, 2014

I thought that this suggested the colour and texture of a lizard in an interesting way, without being ‘realistic’. Fine pleats are oversewn to give directional waves.

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This costume featured leather and other fabrics, cut to resemble muscles or ribs across the chest. The interesting yellow and metal objects are electrical connectors. The artist seems not to be limited in his choice of materials, using many non-traditional textiles and embellishments. I would imagine that the geotexile is a fairly low cost material, but transformed by the use of various techniques in making and decorating the costumes. It also appears to be non-fraying, which allows a cleanly-cut and shaped edge.

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A bird like costume had white plastic ribbing sewn into the fabric, showing at the tips of the ‘wings’ like feathers (detail top, middle). The sporran is in the shape of a fish, made from leather (bottom, left). The lizard mask at bottom right is moulded over a trilby hat, made from aluminium.

Summary

An inspiring and illuminating exhibition, showing how textiles and found materials can be transformed, with imagination and skill, into unique costumes.

Thinking of what I can learn from this artist: his use of a wide variety of materials, including recycled and ‘found’, and non-traditional ones was fascinating, and something to bear in mind for my future experimentation. Manipulating a two-dimensional textile into a three-dimensional structure may be something that I will need to try in forthcoming assignments. I was very interested to see how the artist took inspiration from a particular source and transformed the shapes from buildings and paintings into forms that would fit the human body – there were pages from his sketchbook on display. The importance of drawing and working out the designs was apparent. Although I am not planning to make costumes, I am interested in sculptural forms.

3 thoughts on “Exhibition Visit: Not to Scale: Costumes for Performance By Alex Rigg”

  1. Great write up. Inspiring costumes – wish I was in Scotland. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a costume designer but was told to get a proper job. I don’t think anyone can deny what a proper job this designer’s done!

    Like

  2. Oh dear. I hate to think how many people ‘careers advisors’ and the like have diverted from their true vocations. I hope that you continue to find and express your voice in your art work from now on.

    Like

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