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Doll for Petra

29 April 2017 - 3 September 2017

doll for petra

As part of Eric Gill: The Body with Cathie Pilkington, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft continues to look at the dilemma presented by the artist’s work and his disturbing biography. A co-commission between Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft and Brighton Festival in a separate space features a new large installation by Pilkington, Doll for Petra (2017) which is inspired by a wooden doll carved by Gill for his four year old daughter Petra in 1910.

Dolls and figures have long recurred in Pilkington’s sculptures, prints and drawings. It is said that Petra disliked the carved doll her father gave her, which is neither a playful toy nor a sculptural object, and applied makeup to make it look more like her friends’ dolls. Pilkington’s response to this work comprises a series of five formal sculptural busts, modelled on the head of Gill’s doll and incorporating pedestals bearing Petra’s name. Each bust has a different painted finish, addressing different questions and stories about Gill’s work, materials and subject matter. This work will be distributed throughout the museum’s Wunderkammer amongst a surreal collection of dolls, heads and half finished parts – some found, some hand made, some hidden, some reflected. Recent works examining the doll and representations of the female figure will also be on display including a selection from Pilkington’s two series of etchings Dolls (2013) and Looks (2013). In the William and Margaret Rowling Gallery, a space in which a significant piece of Gill sculpture normally stands, Pilkington’s sculpture Twinkle (2014) will be exhibited.

Cathie Pilkington studied silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art, and sculpture at the Royal College of Art. A Royal Academician since 2014, her show Life Room: Anatomy of a Doll made its debut at the Royal Academy in April 2017, which then transferred to the Brighton Festival with an earlier work Harmonium (2014) the following month.

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Photograph by Alun Callender