A lesson in uniform with artist Kirsty Lillico

For Kirsty Lillico, an artist from Pōneke/Wellington, creative inspiration is everywhere. Music, books, films, art, design of all kinds provide creative inspiration to the artist who uses textiles as his primary medium.

It follows that the garment sometimes becomes a material in his work. “Last year I made a series of padded collages from second-hand sportswear, to explore the contemporary phenomenon of ‘athleisure’ and what it says about our society and values. I m am interested in the language of clothes and what they mean.”

Although she is often drawn to sturdy materials with sculptural potential, earlier this year, at the invitation of the Threads Textiles Festival, Lillico transformed Yu Mei’s production offcuts into a series of upholstered wall works in different colors. who studied the links between industrial production and the problem of fashion waste.

As she told curator Robert Leonard in a 2019 interview, clothing and architecture, another of Lillico’s major influences, are interconnected. “These are two protection systems that we inhabit and that can be used to express our identity.”

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In 2017, Lillico won the Parkin Drawing Prize, Aotearoa’s premier drawing prize for his work State Block, which featured the plan of a 1940s high-density concrete flat block cut into carpet scraps and draped in a presentation from floor to ceiling. Like much of his portfolio, the work grappled with ideas of hostility within architecture, inequality, affordability and challenged modernist theories.

You might say I was a goth teenager because there’s still a suspicious amount of black crushed velvet in there.

When I was a teenager, I made a lot of my clothes. My outfits sometimes invited ridicule on the streets of Upper Hutt. People always refer to subcultures as ‘tribal’, but I didn’t really have many goth friends and the advice I got on music and fashion came from (UK music magazine) NME.

I now see this phase as a type of performance art, a way of signaling to the world that I was against everything that was proposed, the status quo. Which makes it negative, when in fact it was very empowering and an escape.

Monique Ford / Stuff

“A uniform seems like a good option for an artist because A) it signals that your brain is too busy solving tricky artistic problems to deal with fashion. B) It saves money.

All clothes are costumes. If you always express your identity through clothes, is there anything really “authentic”? Jeans are what I wear most often, both in the studio and at work (I’m assistant collection manager at Te Papa Tongarewa). A trailing sleeve or hem is not a good thing when climbing a ladder or scraping on the floor.

My strongest memories are of the clothes I dreamed of as a preteen but didn’t have: spandex pants like the ones Olivia Newton-John wore in Grease. Jelly shoes, a puffy skirt, Bubblegum jeans. One of those gold jackets they gave away as a prize (TV show) It’s incredible!

Left: I Just Can't, 2021. Sportswear, <a class=plywood, urethane foam, paint. Right: Forever New, 2021. Sportswear, plywood, urethane foam, polypropylene, paint.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Michael McKeagg

Left: I Just Can’t, 2021. Sportswear, plywood, urethane foam, paint. Right: Forever New, 2021. Sportswear, plywood, urethane foam, polypropylene, paint.

The things I love the most weren’t new when they came to me. I think the element of luck in finding something great used makes those things more valuable. I bought this dress in a shop on Cuba Street that no longer exists. The geometric shape of the dress and the folk woodblock print reminds me of the beginnings of the Bauhaus when they were in their craft period. But the under arm fabric broke and I tried to darn it but did a lousy job so I have now stopped wearing it.

The 1960s and 1970s polyester dresses I own will probably outlive mankind.

Left to right: Bauhaus dress, two of Kirsty's favorite polyester dresses that

Provided

Left to right: Bauhaus dress, two of Kirsty’s favorite polyester dresses that will “probably outlive humanity”.

The oldest thing in my wardrobe is a blue duster (label: Adolphe Lafont) that I bought from a shop in Auckland called Search and Destroy that sells vintage Japanese and French workwear.

I wore it to work but my co-workers seemed a little taken aback by the stains (from machine oil?) so I covered those areas with patches. The fetishization of clothes worn in a workshop or a factory is one of the characteristics of a post-industrial society. See also – Carhartt, Dickies and so on. I don’t wear this in my studio – it’s so beautiful! I wear a chef’s apron instead.

My Grandmother Elsie’s 1960s Coat Is My Most Sentimental Item. A cocoon in black wool with big buttons. So hot!

My sister-in-law borrowed it when she was pregnant. My grandparents owned a clothing factory in Lloyd St (now Hania St) in the 1950s and 1960s. They made pants for the army. [IMAGE: Elsie’s coat]

Left to right: black corduroy pants from Cotton On, a beloved old blue coat, a black wool coat that belonged to Kirsty's grandmother, Elsie.

Provided

Left to right: black corduroy pants from Cotton On, a beloved old blue coat, a black wool coat that belonged to Kirsty’s grandmother, Elsie.

I like the idea of ​​dress rules, which, taken to the extreme, suggests a uniform. A few years ago I designed a uniform for myself as part of an art project. I thought this would solve my anxiety of having to decide what to wear every day.

Many artists arrive at a particular “look” and it becomes a sort of extension of their work. For example: Frida Kahlo, Joseph Beuys, Georgia O’Keeffe. A uniform seems like a good option for an artist because a) it signals that your brain is too busy solving tricky artistic problems to worry about fashion. B) It saves money. In fact, I would get tired of it too much.

Experimenting with clothes – color, shape, texture – is fun and a trigger for the imagination. You can take a secret story with you that no one else knows.

Rodchenko, 2007. Lambda print 400mm x 280mm.

Kirsty Lillico

Rodchenko, 2007. Lambda print 400mm x 280mm.

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