In Conservation With… interview

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The art of feathers

Kate MccGwire is an internationally renowned British sculptor whose practice probes the beauty inherent in duality. Creating otherworldly, sensuous sculptures that explore the complexities and grotesque underbelly of beauty. Referencing Sigmund Freud’s “Unheimliche”, or “unhomely”, MccGwire renders the familiar fearful, often triggering a visceral response in the viewer.

Growing up on the Norfolk Broads her connection with nature and fascination with birds was nurtured from an early age, with avian subjects and materials a recurring theme in her artwork. Employing natural materials to explore the play of opposites at an aesthetic, intellectual and visceral level, MccGwire sculpts her feathers into freestanding or site-specific works – her forms evolving intuitively and subconsciously based on subtle patterns or details within the feathers. In SECRETE (2014), feathers pool out onto the floor of the exhibition space from a metal cone, while smaller works like TURMOIL (2016) and SMOTHER (2013) are housed in bell jars and resemble living creatures that appear as if they might come to life at any moment. For MccGwire, collecting and working with feathers is a way to venerate the typically overlooked and the otherwise repulsive.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004 MccGwire’s uncanny sculptures have been exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery (London), the Museum of Art and Design (New York), Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris) and at Glasstress, an official collateral event of the Venice Biennale.

Feathered scultures