‘These materials carry with them a weight of meaning and cultural resonance, they draw us in with their iridescent beauty, they are seductive and yet we are repelled by them at the same time… the creases and crevices are recognisable, the materials familiar, and yet when seen out of place, they are uncanny.’ - Kate MccGwire
Internationally renowned sculptor and installation artist Kate MccGwire works in the specialist natural medium of feathers. The artist grew up in the Norfolk Broads, the daughter of a boat builder, and established her connection to birds and nature early on. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, she purchased a barge as a studio on a neglected island on the River Thames. She soon discovered a colony of pigeons living in a neighbouring warehouse and was inspired to collect and use their feathers as a conduit for challenging cultural constructions and perceptions of beauty. Kate now works with a small network of British farmers, gamekeepers and pigeon racers to sustainably source her collection of discarded moults; she meticulously catalogues and archives hundreds of feathers by size, colour and pattern in her studio every year.
When making her wall pieces, Kate rhythmically arranges the feathers by hand in concentric and linear patterns, inspired by the movement of water surrounding her studio barge. She highlights their intricately nuanced and magnetic colours, alongside the aesthetic and sculptural possibilities inherent in the material. Kate uses a variety of bird species, some more psychologically appealing than others – pheasant and magpie to pigeon and crow. The artist’s work, however, encourages us to find beauty in the very elements that we find unsettling.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004, Kate’s work has been exhibited in international exhibitions and museums, including at the Saatchi Gallery, UK; the Museum of Arts and Design, USA; the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, France; Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, France; the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Kunstmuseum Bochum, Germany; Museum Ulm, Germany; Boca Raton Museum of Art, USA; and the Berman Museum of Art, USA. The UK’s Harewood House is holding a major solo show of her work in 2020 and she had a significant retrospective exhibition at The Harley Gallery, UK, in 2018.