~ Kate MccGwire// Skein

The sinuous seductive forms of the scupltures by Kate MccCwire, a London based artist, are captivating if not a little unnerving. The irridescent forms made from feathers, something we normally associate with birds or expected forms are seen in a different way. Beautiful & inspiring.

Skein 2012, Mallard feathers and mixed media, 52x26x26cm
'As the work takes shape, a new, playful reality emerges, so that the object itself becomes a sort of prism, refracting the layers of meaning and cultural associations buried within, the quantity of materials used sometimes deliberately overwhelming, as if charged with a power and ambition beyond the reach they possess when seen in isolation.' Kate MccGwire
 The feathers are at once physiologically entwined with the birds for warmth and flight, but when they are detached they become something other and “alien”.
Urge 2009, Mixed media with Mallard Blue, Magpie, jackdaw feathers in antique Mahogany cabinet 63x63x43cm
MccGwire immerses herself in nature, working out of a studio on a Dutch barge moored on a semi-derelict island in the river Thames. It is here that she collects and sorts thousands of feathers – pigeon, magpie, crow – to use in her sculptures and large scale installations. Crucial to this process is the artist’s relationship with more than 200 pigeon enthusiasts who collect molted feathers for her, regularly mailing envelopes full of feathers that she cleans and adds to her collection. It can take months or years to have enough of one kind for a specific artwork.
Hoax, 201, mixed media with Crow feather in antique glass dome & wood base 54x44cm
She creates massive pieces, intricately patterned with found and donated feathers, and has shown her works at prestigious galleries around the world.
'Freud’s notion of the ‘Unheimliche’ or ‘unhomely’ is referenced throughout my practice to conjure up a feeling of the familiar made strange; it toys with context and perspective and asks to viewer to question the uncertainty that lurks behind the truth of the everyday.'
Slick 2010, Magpie and crow feathers, mixed media & antique fire basket 250x250x60cm

Part on in interesting interview with Kate MccGwire via cvlt nation

How does the concept of opposites come into your work?
By using materials that are in some way familiar the subversion and heightening of meaning can be experimented with. Many of us will have preconceived sensory notions of birds and feathers, by presenting them in an organic yet unconventional way the binary perceptions of beauty and disgust, attraction and fear, and even elegance and power are employed.

How does layering play a part in what you create, and what does this layering mean to you?
Patterning plays a strong role in my work as well as the desire to present something organic. By closely examining the formal structure of a bird’s wing the construction of the natural can inform the arrangement of a piece of work. The result is that the flowing form of the work is both planned and evolves naturally with the course of the feathers, each nestling gently onto the one laid before.

How did you start using feathers in your sculpture?
With my studio situated on a Dutch barge moored on a semi-derelict island in the river Thames, nature has always played a strong role in the evolution of my work. As well as the assorted river wildlife, the island also hosts a warehouse full of feral pigeons, and it was whilst on my daily walk with my dog, that I started to pick up molted pigeon feathers and began to store them back at my studio. Within a couple of months I had a collection of about 400 and had started to layer and play with them, realizing quickly their potential for a larger scale piece where I would need thousands.

You must use thousands of feathers in each of your sculptures…where do the feathers come from?
I wish that there was an easy answer to that question but the feathers come from all over the UK and from many different sources. My main supply comes from pigeon racing clubs and racing enthusiasts who have been invaluable in their support and interest in my work. As the feathers are only naturally shed around April and October the amount needed for large-scale piece of work may need to be collected over a period of years. By letting the materials guide the work I have learnt the importance of both collection and creation, and enjoy how intertwined the processes can be.

What artists inspired you most when you were younger?
When I was very young I loved the fairytale worlds of Arthur Rackham and the visual intensity of artists such as Gustav Klimt. As my awareness of art and artists grew my interest became more focused on concept and materials especially in the work of Eva Hesse and Doris Salcedo. Louise Bourgeois was also particularly influential for her focus on the peculiar in the everyday and her binary references to both brutality and nurture in her work.

Kate’s Gallery at All Visual Arts.
Images courtesy of All Visual Arts
Photographer Tessa Angus
Interview Via cvlt nation