what I'm doing, what I'm seeing, what I'm thinking

28/03/2014

Secret Society Ballroom Banquet - backstory

I'm delighted to introduce the film of my installation at the Holburne Museum, Bath:
'Secret Society - a Ballroom Banquet'.

Watch the film
Film maker Jo Wright made a beautiful visual record of the banquet and it was fun finding music to reflect the madcap atmosphere - thanks to the royalty-free music from incompetech.com


For another version of my banquet, here's a fabulous drawing of it in the Holburne Ballroom by Chloe Regan. Her style gives a wonderful impression of the frenetic cacophony of the feast and she perfectly captures the exquisite architectural detailing of this Regency room. 

Anyway, on to the Banquet backstory. I can't resist a visit to an historic house  and a couple of weeks ago we came across Charlcote Park near Stratford-on-Avon (don't bother going to the latter by the way unless you have a penchant for ersatz Elizabethan, generic hight streets and if shops with names like Much Ado About Toys happen to appeal to you!)
Charlecote Park - a Tudor house - has an impressive dining hall but the best thing was the table all set for a fine banquet.  It was just this kind of banquet that I set out to reference when creating my banquets for the Secret Society.

So I took some photos and have mixed them up with pictures of my two Secret Society banquets - on at Pitzhanger Manor and one at the Holburne Museum - to illustrate my plaster versions of the  historic banquet..



A crucial component is the pedestal fruit bowl - there's something extremely opulent about these in my eyes.

I coated plastic fruit with plaster for my versions



This 'pedestal bowl' was made from a plastic tray and corrugated card


At Charlecote Park they got out the antique porcelain, silver and gold plated cutlery and exquisitely fine lead crystal of course.......


My Secret Society had to make do with paper plates, plastic knives and forks and charity shop 'cut glass'!


I loved the way the light fell obliquely across the table, making the glass and silverware gleam and glint.






This is snap of an image I've had on my studio wall for years - it's from an old book on Blenheim Palace. There's something about this image that I've always found very alluring but it was literally years before I actually made sculpture which referenced it. When I first thought of making the Secret Society banquets I realized that this image was what I had in my mind. You cut things out and pin them up without really knowing why and then one day it all floats to the top!

I wanted to make a banquet as glamorous and elegant as the one one at Blenheim Palace and I felt sure that even though I was using only junk and plaster, it could be possible to achieve.

Candelabra are another must at any banquet.......







Expensive delicacies, invitingly displayed are de-rigeur.....


Pine cones can look equally tempting!




I was constantly on the look out for all kinds of goblets and elegant dishes. This goblet - along with 5 others of various shapes and sizes - were very lucky finds at a French flea market, the local football team had chucked out all their cheap metal and plastic trophies.

I got together a great collection of decanters from charity shops up and down the country. Why does no one use them any more? They look so sophisticated.



Remember that fashion for wine bottles in baskets?? The texture and pattern of basketwork transposes brilliantly into plaster.  Another zany decanter in the background - I always go for the most interesting shapes and plenty of 'cut-glass' patterning. 





this shot always reminds me of a Dutch still-life painting.  I love still-life in painting & photos and I think that was part of the allure of creating a banquet installation, basically just a massive still-life.




My flowers are fakes from a Pound Shop - but dipped in plaster, quite beautiful nevertheless to a sculptor's eye.








It was fashionable in the 18th century to have figurines on the banquet table - one of the reasons that a banquet seemed a good way of displaying my plaster busts.






I suppose the main difference between my banquets and real ones is that mine are monochrome but for me the form and texture make up for the lack of colour - although I do love the intense colours at the Charlecote Park table.





Their cut-glass ................and my cut-glass.........







For my Ballroom Banquet at the Holburne Museum, I decided to thrown in a few contemporary touches, after all, this banquet is taking place in the 21st century and everyone likes a takeaway sometimes!!







It's interesting how even discarded packaging can suddenly acquire a strong sculptural quality when all colour and decoration is removed and only the form remains


It was quite fascinating what happened when the Ballroom Banquet was installed inside a glass box, suddenly all this junk was transformed into something shimmering and precious - just like the real historic artefacts displayed in museums. I found that weird and funny.
The show continues until 22nd April at the Holburne Museum


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