Experiment | From White Fabric to Expressive Costume

By looking at Jackson Pollock and his drip painting technique, I transformed a white fabric into an expressive costume.

When I painted my space, I built the space first and knew exactly what I want to paint on the walls, the ground, and the ceiling. During a tutorial with Isabel, she suggested me to change the orders to see the effect, for example, paint on a big paper/fabric first, then see what I can do with the painted paper/fabric.

Yes, why not?

I was thinking to design a new costume to match the space, something about emotion and expression, but I didn’t know what do design, or what kind of silhouette to have. Why not paint on a fabric first, then see what can I do with the fabric? 

So I found the left white cotton drill from the last project, it was still in regular shape, but since I cut some for the previous project, there was one long strip which made the shape a bit strange.


I was looking at Jackson Pollock when I painted the ceiling. I mixed acrylic and water, and used his Drip Painting technique to paint on the transformed plastic fabric. But it was still different with the effect of his drip painting. This time, I wanted to try the drip painting on the fabric to see the effect.

When I painted this fabric, I was in a happy mood, so I choose light and bright acrylic paints mixed with the fabric medium. No water added, since last time I added some water, the color was blooming and messy. To keep the colors clean, I only added fabric medium this time.

First, I used grass green and medium yellow, and split the brush and achieve the strip line on the fabric.

Then I dripped some rose red on it, like the flowers in the grass.

Next, I used the dark grey to split the paints in a rhythmical movement. When I saw the video how Pollock painted, instead of random dripping and dropping, the paints and brush were in rhythm following his arm and body’s rhythmical movement,  which made his painting harmonious, even ‘messy’.  I tried to find this rhythm in painting, like a symphony.

I put more and more colors, layers by layers, with orange, lemon yellow, olive green, dark grey, and a bit red. It’s not easy or random, I need to walk around the fabric and watched it carefully where to paint, and control the brush in my hand to achieve the best effect in that area. I also need to look at the whole piece of fabric to make the colors messy but harmonious.

It was really tiring, I used to think that you only need your body to do action painting, but the fact is that your mind needs to work more during the process. I guess if you looked at my face during the process, I was very serious and dedicated。 

Besides, I also painted some fabric oddments, but I didn’t use them this time. 

After the fabric got dried, I ironed them to keep the colors stuck on the cotton drill.

Without any idea to use this painted fabric, I borrowed a mannequin and wrapped it on its body.

To my surprise, I founded it working perfectly as a Chador/Abaya, to cover your head to the lower part of the body, and because of the protuberant strip, I even didn’t need to cut this piece. 

Then I was thinking if I should add more elements on it to make it more magnificent, or if I should cut them into shapes, but when I looked at it, the pattern is already very heavy and strong, if I put more things, it would be too much. So I choose to keep the shape the fabric simple, without any cutting or changing. 

So I only used 3 safety pins to make a fabric into a costume.


Then I asked Friedel if he could be my model again, kindly he agreed! I used his camera to take these photos he wearing this garment. Still, I didn’t cut the piece of fabric and only use one safety pin to keep it on his body.

I like the effect, looks good on him, and he looks great in this photo, no matter the costume, the face paint, or the background and surrounding.

To make the mannequin more fashionable and match better with space, I used fragile tape to cover its face, red warning tapes to wrap her feet and legs, and made a fluffy sunglasses.

This is the final effect of the installation:

This installation has special and complicated meanings,

1st, the fragile tape on her face and necks means a sensitive heart of the woman. She try to cover herself and protect her fragile heart with a big chador/abaya.

2nd, The fluffy sunglass is exaggerated on her face, even she is fragile and sensitive, she doesn’t want people to find her emotion from her face, especially from her eyes, she tries to look cool and strong. 

3rd, the expressive chardor/abaya is a clock to protect her sensitive and fragile heart, you may see her strong and expressive emotions, which is the outside look, but hardly you can see her inside, or let’s say, what she exactly is, without protection.

4th, the warning tape on her legs and feet means that she is controled by something, which made her lose her freedom and right.

At the same time, the tape, sunglasses, chador/abaya may have another meaning: 

5th,the fragile tape covering the face means how others judge women are. They think woman are fragile, need them to protect, and need a clock to cover and protect them.

6th, in the middle east, women were forced to cover their bodies(not everyone could choose to do or not to do) to show their modesty, it’s always black. But I wanna use this expressive and colorful chador/abaya to announce the strong personality of the woman, I am not what you see. I do have my emotions as every human being do. It’s not a shame to show your emotions and personalities in public.

7th, It’s ironic to wear a fluffy sunglass while your body is forced to be covered. Yes, I want to show my scorn to those rules.

8th, the red warning tape on her legs and feet are controlling my freedom and speed now,

Maybe there are more meanings, or different audience could understand it in different ways.

Many many thanks to Friedel for being the model again! Thanks to Taro for the great photos with sunglasses. And thanks to Isabel for the suggestions.


Royal College of Art, London


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