with Kate MccGwire
Interview: Kate MccGwire On Discerning Duality, Connecting with Nature, and Making Art in the Belly of a Dutch Barge
Growing up on the Norfolk Broads, a network of waterways in the eastern lobe of England that are mostly navigable by boat, Kate MccGwire explored the area’s wetlands and observed wildlife that would set in motion an artistic practice centered in nature. The artist is known for her site-specific installations and serpentine sculptures that incorporate thousands of bird feathers into otherworldly specimens that writhe, squish, and spill.
Often there is an obfuscation of what we know to be real and a shift that allows a sort of reverie and suspension of reality, and due to the convincing placement of the feathers over natural undulating forms, the impression that it could be real, that it could move, flow, and uncoil. —Kate MccGwire
MccGwire speaks in this interview about the tensions and dualities between containment and movement, attraction and revulsion, and nature and the self.
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10,000 Pigeon Feathers Cascade from a Bookcase in Kate MccGwire’s Latest Installation
Based in west London, artist Kate MccGwire is known for her serpentine feather sculptures and discomfiting artworks that coil and ooze in every direction. A recent installation follows in that tradition as it pours down like a massive gush of water from a built-in bookcase. Composed of approximately 10,000 pigeon feathers, “Discharge” stands nearly five meters tall and cascades to the floor in feathered ripples. While the plumes lining the main chute are in shades of gray, those at the bottom are lighter, evoking the ways water appears white when it crashes.
The delicate feathers are sourced ethically from pigeon racers who collect the plumes in August and October when the birds molt. MccGwire sorts the materials in her studio, separating the ones that curve left from those that bend to the right, before arranging them in captivating, color-specific patterns. “When visitors see the piece for the first time they are drawn to the phenomenal scale, rhythmic patterning, movement, and perfection of the piece,” she says of the mixed-media installation. “But are often perturbed and revolted when they understand what the material is,” which is exactly her intention. By juxtaposing the raw materials with the finished artwork, she asks viewers to consider the everyday beauty that’s often overlooked.
“Discharge” has been exhibited in an evolution of configurations in South Korea, Berlin, Paris, and now, Harewood House in West Yorkshire until August 14. Take a video tour of the current exhibition—which also includes a massive feather rug and encased sculptures—and find more of MccGwire’s voluptuous projects on Instagram.
Update: The exhibition at Harewood House has been extended through October 25.
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Serpentine Coiled Sculptures of Found British Bird Feathers by Kate MccGwire
Kate MccGwire‘s roiling feather sculptures juxtapose the beautiful, delicate material with discomfiting shapes. Whereas her earlier work tended toward sprawling installations that oozed and slid toward the viewer, MccGwire’s more recent pieces are tightly wound and displayed within the confines of frames, cabinets, and bell jars.
Although at first glance the feathers’ incredible colors and patterns seem exotic, the British MccGwire sources all of her materials from dropped feathers provided by farmers, gamekeepers, and pigeon racers. She was originally inspired to begin working with feathers after discovering a local pigeon colony that dropped feathers near her rural art studio. Magpie and mallard feathers gleam an iridescent inky blue, and pheasant feathers sport detailed patterns.
In an interview with Artnews, MccGwire describes her work: “I’m thinking of it as being like an umbilical cord. I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”
MccGwire is represented by La Galerie Particuliere and Mark Sanders Art Consultancy and exhibits widely; she currently has works in three shows. The artist also shares updates on Facebook and Instagram.
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Feather Sculptures by Kate MccGwire
British sculptor Kate MccGwire (previously) creates uncanny organic sculptures from layers of bird feathers. The objects she creates are so precisely assembled that they seem to form hybrid creatures with tentacles or limbs that twist and curve into unexpected forms.
MccGwire grew up on the Norfolk Broads, a network of rivers and lakes in eastern England where her connection with nature and fascination with birds was nurtured from an early age. Today the artist patiently collects pigeon and mallard feathers which are carefully washed and sorted in preparation for each new sculpture.
If you want to see her work first-hand this month you’re in luck, as she currently has pieces and installations in no less than four five ongoing exhibitions. You can stop by Le Royal Monceau in Paris through November 3rd, Gaasbeek Castle in Belgium, the Cheongju International Craft Biennale 2013 in South Korea, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, and the Viewing Room exhibition at the Marylebone Church Crypt in London.
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