Over at the All Visual Arts gallery (fast becoming my favourite gallery in London) there is a new exhibition LURE, by artist Kate MccGwire. My taste in art leans towards the romantically beautiful, with a touch of macabre taxidermy thrown in. I’m partial to a pretty carcass.
Kate’s work is dark, unsettling but exquisitely elegant. She layers an oil-slick of feathers over snaking shapes to create sculptural forms that would not be out of place found in the grounds of Hogworts. The fact that many of them in this exhibition are safely tethered behind Victorian specimen glass cabinets, caught tightly with surgical clamps, does nothing to dispel the feeling they could, at any moment, come alive. I also love the way she plays with the textural differences of feathers, highlighting their delicacy when viewed in downy circles set into lead panelled tablets.
Kate lives in London (on a boat, on the Thames) and we caught five minutes with her as she was recovering from getting everything finished for the exhibition and asked her the following…..
TWR You seem to be intent on creating a world full of new, darkly-magical, creature-sculptures! We find them beautiful and a tiny bit unsettling all at once, is it ok to have ‘fascinated and frighened’ as a response to the works?
KMG Indeed I do want to seduce and repel in equal measure. I attempt to imbue the work a seductive beauty but that is underpinned with a sense of latent threat.
TWR As a successful female artist working today, does your work ever get judged as ‘feminine’? and if so does that drive you mad?
KMG I’m not really aware of my work being regarded as feminine. Over the years I have been inspired by numerous female artists – but they are all strong independent artists working in original ways who I believe subvert a feminine language in the materials they use but manage in some way to draw you in with a sensitive /fine approach that seems to me utterly genuine.
I’m thinking of artists such as Mona Hatoum, Doris Salcedo, Ann Hamilton, they all work with incredible detail and also on a vast dominating scale that could never be regarded as being purely feminine.
TWR We have readers who might have teenage daughters thinking of going into art, or indeed may be considering changing their own career at this mid point in their lives, what would you say to anyone considering art as a career?
KMG I wouldn’t be happy with any other career but its a hard slog. I graduated from an MA in Sculpture from the RCA in 2004 (having had a previous career -as an interior designer). I’ve worked pretty solidly since then with many exhibitions each year.
I suppose my advice would be that you have to take risks and say yes to any opportunity to exhibit, attend private views, apply for many open exhibitions or residencies at the same time. it improves your technique with applications, it gives you impetus to make new work and pushes your boundaries and eventually will provide with you exposure. I have found that it is never a waste of time as you always meet interesting people along the way and you never know what it will lead to.
Kate uses feathers from many birds, carefully sourced from properly ethical suppliers, including mallard, jay, magpie, crow, pigeon and dove. The above mallard and board Sepal was my favourite piece. For more information on the inspiration behind Kate’s work, read here.
Below, one of the Stigma collection, using lead and pigeon tail feathers.
Below Splice, using magpie feathers.
Kate’s LURE exhibition is on at All Visual Arts in London until 26th January 2013. Go see it, it’s fab.