Kathy Dalwood takes her Secret Society for a Sculptural Banquet at Pitzhanger Manor

By Richard Moss | 15 April 2013

Exhibition preview: Kathy Dalwood, The Secret Society – A Sculptural Banquet, Pitzhanger Manor, London, April 19 - June 9 2013

a photo of a sculpture of a female wearing a hat with a car perched on top of it
Kathy Dalwood, The Gold Digger (2012)© Courtesy the artist
The opulence of Sir John Soane’s dream house, Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, may have been the scene of some lavish parties in its time. But the son of a bricklayer turned celebrated architect may well have raised an eyebrow if he saw the latest banquet to occupy his house.

Kathy Dalwood’s sculptural installation, The Secret Society – A Sculptural Banquet, brings fashion, architecture, design and the tradition of the plaster bust into the 21st century - and, in the middle, Soane’s glorious creation.  

He designed Pitzhanger Manor as a place to entertain his friends and display his collection of art and antiquities. In honour of this, Dalwood has assembled a curious cast of characters with crazy hairdos and hats, including Highwayman’s Girl La Cavaliere, Miss London Town and Lafayette.

Ms Shakespeare has a cottage on her head and a character called Demoiselle D has a "Coolie" Hat, after Dior’s 1950s version. Josephine's hat, meanwhile, features a Napoleon perched on top.  

a close up photo of a bust with a hat and Napoleon figure on the top
Kathy Dalwood, Josephine.© Courtesy the artist
These secret society members have been drawn from Dalwood’s celebrated plaster bust collection. At Pitzhanger, they enjoy a luxurious baroque dinner of exotic fruit, magnificent multi-tiered cakes and decanters of wine made from bright white plaster.

Seemingly inspired in equal parts by Georgian period opulence and the catwalk creations of Dior and Alexander McQueen, the classical busts also manage to reference contemporary sculpture and Renaissance building styles by way of the modern architecture of Le Corbusier.

“Pitzhanger Manor was designed for busts,” says Dalwood, who has taken full advantage of its many niches, plinths and mantelpieces to place her strange collection of characters – many of which she admits have their own personalities.  

“They certainly don’t feel like just objects to me. Sometimes I get a weird feeling when I catch a glimpse of them silently assembled on a studio shelf and seemingly gazing into space or at each other.”

Dalwood has also created a brand new plaster bust inspired by Soane’s designs, referencing his love of classical architecture, ornament and sculpture and taking advantage of Pitzhanger’s impressive vaulted ceilings, interconnecting rooms, inset mirrors and stripped back classical detailing.

“I hope that visitors will be seduced by the expressive beauty of plaster as a material," she adds.

"Perhaps the busts will steer people’s interest towards figurative sculpture in general, of which there are so many – at times overlooked – diverse and captivating examples in the cities, parks, palaces, cathedrals and museums of the world.”

  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 1pm-5pm (11am-5pm Saturday). Admission free.

More pictures:

a photo of two busts on a plinth
© Courtesy the artist
a photo of two sculpted busts on a mirror shelf
© Courtesy the artist
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