Collaborating with: James Rigler

Written By

James Rigler

8.9.2021 Thinking

Over the history of our practice, we have sought the expertise of others, always believing in the inherent benefits of collaboration and having experienced the positive impact of combining ideas and expertise. 

One such collaborator is New Zealand born, Glasgow based artist James Rigler. James studied 3D Craft at the University of Brighton before graduating from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Ceramics and Glass in 2007. 

We have enjoyed the privilege of having James involved in one of our recent projects. His interpretation of the design statement and his understanding of the heritage of the building has resulted in a richly ornamental sculptural Tabernacle and Sanctuary candlestick, and the focal centrepiece within St Matthews Parish Church.

We asked James to offer an insight into his creative process as part of our 40th Anniversary, in celebration of our creative partnerships. 

I work with clay, creating bold and vibrant ceramic objects, with a practice anchored in craft knowledge and skilled making but that roams across art and design. I’m hugely influenced by architecture, particularly the historical languages of decoration and materials that distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary, and my work attempts to repurpose these languages to draw out new meanings or question existing hierarchies. I’m often inspired by functional objects – furniture, buildings, industrial machinery – or by objects whose function has been obscured: monuments, statuary, ruins.  Sometimes, this includes incorporating faux-functional elements as a way to blur boundaries between object types and to question the ‘edges’ of sculpture. I’d like to think that my work is both familiar and extraordinary, with a sense of the ridiculous and a healthy dose of humour.

Having studied Ceramics at the University of Brighton and the Royal College of Art, I honed my craft in the architectural terracotta industry as a model-maker and mould-maker. This experience shaped the scale and processes that I continue to work with: an emphasis on skill, technical knowledge and a dialogue with materials. Using plaster moulds and semi-industrial processes like slip-casting and press-moulding allows me to bring precision and the aesthetics of mass-production to my work, where multiple elements are often combined together to create larger forms. It’s a privilege to make work that feels as though it could be part of the ‘real’ world.

Glasgow itself is usually the source material for new ideas. Walking the city feels like having a series of conversations with the architects and builders of the past, each building offering an opaque narrative about the time and reasons behind its creation. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas or enthusiasm, a wander through the city centre or the grimy tenements of the Southside recharges me.

A recent project? In November 2019 I completed my largest project to date. ‘Primitive Forms’ consists of 5 monumental objects that occupy and activate a foyer space inside the newly-redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery. Taking inspiration from the history of neo-classical architecture and the idea of the building being ‘remixed’ for the 21st century, I created a series of rustic architectural elements in glazed and metal-leafed clay: two pediments, a column, an entablature, an urn. These act like a tongue-in-cheek ‘prologue’ to the familiar decoration elsewhere in the building, a three-dimensional echo of the frontispiece of Laugier’s ground-breaking Essay on Architecture (1755). The work is my first permanent installation and involved complex collaboration and coordination with the museum staff, architects, contractors and funders. Not an easy task for someone with a fairly solitary studio-based practice, but energising and creatively provocative nonetheless. 



Find out more about the work of James Rigler here A recently commissioned ceramic installation for GoMA, Old Money’, has now been installed and is open to the public.

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