Lure, a new major solo exhibition by Kate MccGwire’s is on show at All Visual Arts in London. The title Lure is a dual reference to the ring of feathers used by a falconer to call and command their birds, and to the siren-like call of the work itself. It evokes the combination of our fascination with the iridescent, exotic specimens on display and the desire to look closer in spite of the disquieting atmosphere they create.
MccGwire’s work uses the language of nature’s forms to construct impossible creatures, pitting the beauty of a bird in flight against our instinctive revulsion to these unnatural forms in close proximity. Their feathers are both alluring and abject, and appeal to our subjective experience as we confront the breathless, convoluted structures. Her sculptures exist in the periphery between the living and the dead, challenging our perceptions of the authentic and the imaginary.
MccGwire’s working process is a continuous cycle of collection and construction that manifests in the objects she creates. The painstaking process of their development is apparent in the layers of carefully aligned feathers and in each swirl of oilslick plumage. This creative process is central to MccGwire’s work, allowing the organic materials to suggest their own form and following their patterns to evoke movement and musculature in the sculptures themselves. Taking natural materials and reimagining their forms, MccGwire’s works take on an anthropomorphic quality; a brooding, predatory physicality that at once attracts and repels the viewer.
Cleave, a work in white pigeon feathers has been constrained within a glass cabinet. Challenging our impulse to perceive pigeons as diseased and parasitic creatures, Cleave explores the purity and sensuality of form to attract our gaze. Delving into and out of itself over and again, we fall prey to its allure and undulating physicality. MccGwire’s preoccupation with natural fibres and their creative potential, in particular with hair, is enacted in Splice. The intricately plaited magpie feathers reference MccGwire’s enduring interest in the mythological significance of hair. Placed in this context the meaning twists from girlish plait to something knotted, visceral, anguished and dark.
Dominating the space is the monumental presence of Gyre, a large installation piece bringing together MccGwire’s enduring themes through its gestural obsidian form. Formed from a vast collection of crow feathers, the piece refers to the cultural mythologies of crows as devious creatures, omens of bad luck when seen in pairs and closely associated with death due to their unbidden presence on battlefields and graveyards. These unconscious associations are inscribed in the silken black surface of the structure, and intensify as Gyre’s sheer scale causes it to exceed the boundaries of the cabinet, viscerally invading the formal space of the gallery. The piece appears organic, almost umbilical as its tendrils entwine with one another, wrapped closely to the structure evoking the primal dependence of both mother and child, and the parasite.
MccGwire’s work recontextualises natural materials, creating an impossible menagerie of writhing forms that expose both the beauty and darkness of nature, and reflect our own fears and vulnerability in their swelling shadows.
Lure, 23 November 2012 until 26 January 2013, All Visual Arts, 2 Omega Place, London N1 9DR, www.allvisualarts.org
1. Gyre, Kate MccGwire, Courtesy All Visual Arts. Photography Tessa Angus.
2. Splice, Kate MccGwire, Courtesy All Visual Arts. Photography Tessa Angus.
3. Cleave, Kate MccGwire, Courtesy All Visual Arts. Photography Tessa Angus.
4. Sepal Speculum VII, Kate MccGwire, Courtesy All Visual Arts. Photography Tessa Angus.