Kapok Heart

Cathie Pilkington’s work is a kind of taxidermy in the expanded field of art. It is a taxidermy of discarded, outmoded objects rather than carcasses. There is no material or object so utterly dead and dilapidated that it cannot be ‘sat up’, stitched up and reanimated. Pilkington’s work is full of these cast offs, The charity shop, jumble sale things that are spliced into her otherwise emphatically sculptural practice have been liberated from the commodity rat race. They have drifted into the demimonde of the car boot and trestle table before being subject to Pilkington’s peculiar version of detournement. There is something ‘outsider-ish’ about her use of the sophisticated strategy of appropriation. Never has the assisted ready-made been so intensively hand-made, so affectionately homespun.

The presentational mode of Pilkington’s work is always the tableau. This is the governing mode even when the figure/objects are simple and singular (often dogs, the underdog, the uberdog, good dog/bad dog, the dog as a medium in its loyal and whimpering self). The tableau is a popular and sentimental mode. Its aim is to involve the beholder as directly as possible with a presence that is vivid and theatrical. But the tableau’s promise of involvement can never be fulfilled. There is an unbridgeable gap between the real gallery space and the virtual space of the frozen drama, and in the end it is the beholder’s estrangement from the scene represented that gets the upper hand. It is this simultaneous involvement and estrangement that is at the kapok heart of Pilkington’s ‘taxidermy’. Her use of almost familiar but displaced domestic materials amplifies the tableau effect: the scenes are both homely and ‘unheimlich’

Neil Walton


1968 Born in Manchester

1995-97 Royal College of Art
1985-91 Edinburgh College of Art
1984-85 North Cheshire College

2000-04 Camberwell College of Art
1997–2000 Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Art
1991-95 Edinburgh College of Art
1991-95 Leith School of Art

Solo Exhibitions

2012 The Value of the Paw, Marlborough Fine Art, London

2010 Peaceable Kingdom, Marlborough Fine Art, London

2009 Toby Jugs and other works Space Station 65, London

2007 White Elephant, Marlborough Fine Art, London

2005 Garden, Program, London

2004 I’m a Winner! The Apartment. Athens
Curio Space Station 65. London

2003 Homunculus, The Economist Plaza, London

2000 Short Stories, Galway Arts Centre, Ireland

1998 Viva Chihuahua! Prema, Uley, Gloucestershire


Selected Exhibitions

2010 Bedizzened, APT London

2009 Three Women Artists from Marlborough, Gallery Arque, Lisbon

Bad Animals, Transition Gallery, London

2008 That’s Entertainment, Whistable Biennale, Kent

Carnitown, Space Station 65, London

Arque Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal

2007 The Craft, Transition Gallery, London

2006 The Craft, The Metropole Gallery, Folkstone

Summer Exhibition, Marlborough Fine Art, London

2005 Engerland! OneOtwo, the Tea Buildings, London.

2003 Emporium Domo Baal. London
Flock The Model Arts Centre. Sligo. Ireland
Off the Leash Graves Art Gallery. Sheffield
Captive Bred Bolton City Art Gallery

2002 Royal Academy Summer Show

2001 For the love of dog Battersea Pumphouse Gallery
Auras and Avatars The First Public School. Greece
Animal The Collective Gallery. Edinburgh

2000 Mandarina Duck Awards Milan. Italy
Fathom The Study Gallery. Poole. Dorset
Glory Hole Magri Walk. Whitechapel. London
Sculpture Malmsbury Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral

1999 Dub Housing Steirscher Herbst 99. Austria
Rover Manchester City Art Gallery
Medway Open Rochester Art Gallery. England

1998 False Economy Gasworks. London
Viva Chihuahua! The Tannery. London

1997 Kettle Blue Gallery Beaumont. Luxembourg
Atrium Charing Cross. London

1991 Hot House Kew Gardens. London
John Watson Prize Gallery of Modern Art. Edinburgh

Collections & Awards

2001 Deste Foundation. Athens
2000 Manchester City Art Gallery
1999 L.A.B award to individual Artists
1997 Fine Art Research Fellowship. Cheltenham

Public Commissions

2000 @ Bristol. Harbourside. Bristol
2005 Evalina Childrens Hospital London.
2005 Comme des Garcons, Dover Street Market, London.