Hettie Judah explores Cathie Pilkington's recent show with Karsten Schubert London.
Cathie Pilkington’s horses would struggle to stand, so instead most slouch and loll like painted ladies, stretched supine for the viewer’s pleasure. They are peculiar hybrid objects: pony chargers, horse mosquitos, with the bottoms of babies and the legs of adolescents. Their clay and plaster bodies come from the world of serious sculpture – work in progress – but thanks to the fronds of iridescent ribbon curtain spilling from the shelves, they also have one hoof planted in the rainbow unicorniverse.
The mixedness of these Weird Horses reads like a mockery of the calculated mingling undertaken by professional animal breeders. We might think of them, too, as sculptors of a kind – shapers of imposed categories of animal life, experts in the judgement of form and balance, creators and guardians of species and their specifications. Refining and guarding the characteristics and ‘purity’ of a breed is not a neutral exercise, whether applied to humans or to animals (just think of Mark Wallinger’s horse portraits Race Class Sex, 1992). It implies a hierarchical order of beings, improvement by design.