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Secret Society - a Sculptural Banquet

After months of preparation I've finally installed my exhibition at Pitzhanger Manor, London, which runs until the 9th June.
64 of my plaster busts have formed themselves into a Secret Society and in three inter-communicating rooms of Sir John Soane's 'dream house' are attending a specially created banquet.
I've made a film of the installation -
press arrows for full screen:

NEWS NEWS!  Thanks to cool art & design blog YATZER for a fantastic review!  See it here

Like the busts, everything at the banquet is in plaster.

I never actually counted how many objects I created for the banquet - which I made by coating real things in plaster - but there were a daunting amount of them to arrange after they were unpacked. Luckily, I had the very clever and talented stylist Karina Garrick to help me........

..........our plan was first to arrange some of the larger busts and objects along the 4 metre table to get a good composition and focal points, and then to add the masses of objects around them.

Actually, it was a lot of fun.  I'd had my head down casting for weeks and weeks, doing 8 hour days in the studio to finish new busts and make enough stuff for the banquet. Now it was the thrilling part, arranging it all to create a glamorous and crazy banquet - I'd really been looking forward to this in the last few weeks.

As well as all the 'usual banquet items' I included some key studio things like whisks, brushes and sieves - these are fundamental to my daily studio work and plus I like the look of them as objects. Covering them in plaster turned them into sculptures and seemed to raise their status somehow.

There was quite a lot of touching up to do at the gallery because the plaster tends to crack off some of the objects during handling.

As well as fake flowers from the £ shop, I used real plants - these were seed heads I picked up on my sister's allotment.  The bust is Astronaut - one of my new ones, she has the Apollo Moon Lander on her head.

Turned out I had made so much stuff there was enough for another 2 tables - so this a plaster 'buffet' in an adjoining room.

I was sitting on the floor at the end of the day and noticed the evening sun back-lighting the objects - the wine glass looks like it's full of milk.

In the last few months I've scoured many a charity shop to collect together enough banquet things (I can recommend St Leonards!). I had a particular penchant for cut glass as I thought the facets would be very sculptural in plaster - which I do think happened.

Of course every banquet needs a cake!  Mine is 3-tiered, decorated with miniature iconic buildings and busts (and if you come across any fancy cake decorators stealing my idea, let me know!)

Karina caught me at an indecisive moment!  Things with a lot of texture and pattern worked very well coated in plaster - like this basket and the pine cone inside (pine cones are a special banquet delicacy - didn't you know??)!

Crab or lobster of course - only the best is served!

Karina really enjoyed doing the touching up - it took her back to her art school days. She might not have enjoyed the endless, endless plaster mixing I had to do to cover the trillions of objects though!

In creating the banquet, I referenced objects and materials used in my busts - hence the slice of Lego cake. I also used a lot of low-key elements like tin cans and cardboard packaging  - that's a tin can holding the brush and flower. Actually tin cans are beautiful, simple, elemental and functional objects.
I don't like luxe but it's an interesting challenge to create something like this banquet which appears luxe at a distance but is in fact made up of very low-key, everyday and discarded objects and materials.
My message is: low-key is the new luxe!!

I enjoyed making the pedestal bowls overflowing with fruit. I bought some people's collections of second-hand plastic fruit on Ebay! It was hard to get them to stay in the same place while pouring the plaster over though. In fact, coating the objects in plaster was much, much more tricky than I had imagined - I thought it would be the easy bit but no such luck. I worked out a good technique by the time I got to the END!

This is the other adjoining room which really exemplifies Soane's interior architectural styling.

Lego cake for everyone!!

This is Tank Girl. Of course I made sure she had the most up to date comms as part of her equipment.

There are 2 each of 32 different busts on show. I feel I have reached a natural full stop with this collection and I plan to pause for a while before deciding in which direction to take it next. 
There are lots more images of the Secret Society exhibition on my website.

And see my studio preparation for the show
Pitzhanger and PM Gallery, Ealing, London.     VISITING INFO
The show runs until the 9th June.

More info about the 18th century architect Sir John Soane

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