Kate MccGwire: ‘LURE’ @ All Visual Arts

All Visual Arts present the solo show of artist Kate MccGwire, titled ‘LURE’ and comprising of some 27 sculptures of varied sizes.

MccGwire’s narrative encompasses the existential impression of birds and especially species that collide with human life, such as doves, pigeons and crows. By retaining their main feature -the feathers- she creates new life forms in direct contact with the environment or inside display cabinets. The gallery floor is taken over by oversized ‘Gyre’, a nearly 10m. long vortex of feathers emerging through the wall in large tendrils and expanding in its surrounding locus. Similar smaller vortices of crow and magpie feathers (‘Taunt’ and ‘Splice’) occupy other corners of the room. More creatures of mysterious identity include the ‘Cleave’, ‘Coerce’, ‘Orchis’, ‘Narcis’ and ‘FINE’, all displayed in antique style cabinets. The ‘Stigma’ series are lead panels incorporating circular, almost mouth-like or even embryonic, formations of feathers rising from the surface.

‘LURE’ is a milieu of curiosities and although MccGwire’s medium is so well recognised, her sculptures introduce an unsettling and unnerving ‘familiarity’. The hypostasis of these entities covered with iridescent feathers certainly have an earthly character, which however evaporates as soon as we realise the absence of heads, legs and other physical characteristics. The conjecture that the creatures might be hiding these parts in the process of defence or impending attack, generate emotions of insecurity and anxiety. Their display in glass cabinets is suggestive not only of a potential peculiarity or uniqueness but also of an unknown identity, even a gesture for protection from a possible threat.

Familiar shapes and formations such as spindles, tentacles, sprawling and undulating organic patterns reminiscent of viruses, microbes and infectious organisms may be associated with the verminous nature of the actual birds that MccGwire’s feathers belong to. And, somehow, this comes in utter opposition to the objective beautifulness that these sculptural pieces represent. What MccGwire has masterfully achieved by introducing her impossible beings is a witty game in the realm of aesthetics. The utilisation of parts of parasitic birds in aesthetically [al]luring and objectively attractive new forms is juxtaposed against the subjective memory dominating the viewer’s subconscious. MccGwire’s visual exercise demonstrates how the imitation of a new life form with parts of a previous one subconsciously registered as parasitic, can still activate emotions of fear and revulsion despite its new physical attractiveness.

Kate MccGwire talked to REVma -/+ about LURE and her work:
REVma -/+: How did the narrative of LURE come about?
K.M. The essence of LURE was formed from a series of life drawings that focused on the crevices and creases of the body. Isolating these contours from the figure and presenting them in abstraction intrigued me. I was fascinated by how far a form could be simplified yet still suggest the body as a whole. Along with the bodily, other elements within the show have evolved from my previous body of work. Familiar inspirations resurface; enclosed forms, restricted spaces, but this time the work has included a form of literal restraint, laboratory clamps and stands, which control and shackle the forms: squeezing, bending and coercing them into shapes that are again reminiscent of the body.

REVma -/+: Why did you focus on particular bird species such as crows and pigeons?
K.M.: Crows and pigeons are both birds that have deeply ingrained negative associations, yet are also familiar and a regular presence in our lives. While the pigeon is thought to be dirty, vermin, no more than a rat with wings, the crow is thought of as a bad omen, devious and cunning. Playing with those reputations, my work aims to turn those commonly held beliefs on their heads and make something exquisitely beautiful out of something that normally evokes such disdain.

REVma -/+: The use of feather as your main medium is utilised in all of your exhibited pieces. How challenging was working with it?
K.M.: Using natural materials means a lot of time is spent sourcing and preparing them for use in the artwork. I take a pride in how the work is viewed and so can sometimes discard a complete batch of feathers if the colour or shape is not quite perfect enough. The feathers themselves are also delicate and can easily be ruined by ruffling them the wrong way. It is a matter of understanding your material, knowing how to handle it and care for it, as well as utilizing it in a work. I protect the feathers and work by freezing them prior to use and keeping them carefully packed away from dust and moths. A technique I learnt from the Natural History Museum.

REVma -/+: Although your sculptures range from static small cabinet pieces to site-specific installations, there is an underlining vivid theatrical character attached to them. Have you ever considered incorporating the element of performance into your artistic vocabulary?
K.M.: I love the idea of incorporating an element of performance into my work. My method of making is very meditative so I’m not sure if logistically there would be a way of making my work into a performance itself, however I have been considering something like a time-lapse video, with the work growing over the period of the exhibition. I’d like to present a work that evolves in front of your eyes.