British sculptor Kate MccGwire cleverly composes feathers and other bird ephemera into captivating sculptures. Rik Glauert writes.
Kate MccGwire crafted ‘Secrete’ in 2014 to stand in a Georgian building in the United Kingdom. The building was designed around sacred water, which trickled through the building to be collected in a baptismal font.
The British sculptor cleverly evokes the flow of the water and the heritage of the building’s architecture with a vintage steel bucket tipped on its side. Spilling outwards onto the floor is a ‘puddle’ of bright aqua magpie feathers.
“The decrepit and rough nature of the bucket form mimics the street outside the gallery, while the daylight activates the feathers, making them glow miraculously,” says MccGwire of the piece, which is endemic of her work—a striking combination of architectural and animalistic beauty.
‘Secrete’ now stands against a glass window as part of MccGwire’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Hosted by Galerie Huit, other works of the exhibition display MccGwire’s appreciation for structural design; the piece ‘Heave’ gushes out from the wall with no visible beginning.
“My passion lies in mixing wildlife in historic buildings and making site-specific installations. I love working with the history of a place to make [people] re-examine [their] understanding of a place and time,” says MccGwire.
The distinct contours that twist and curve in MccGwire’s sculptural forms reference her childhood experiences of living in England’s countryside with her father—a boat builder who first taught her how to make knots.
MccGwire later lived in Paris and studied interior architecture. “The architecture, history and sophistication [of Paris] was such a contrast to my childhood world, it blew me away,” she says.
Since 2005, MccGwire has lived and worked on a barge moored on an island on the waterways of London. “It’s like being in my own nature reserve. [I am] constantly surrounded by birds and wildlife,” MccGwire says of the experience.
Birds are the most obvious inspiration for MccGwire’s art. She uses the naturally discarded ephemera of birds—feathers, quills and bones—and reconfigures them into contemporary sculptures.
Feathered friends have accompanied humans for thousands of years and MccGwire delves into the cultural significance that humans have given them—the crow as a bearer of bad news and the dove as a symbol of peace.
MccGwire’s fascination with birds also stems from a structural and architectural appreciation. “The feathers [are] so light and seemingly fragile, [yet] it can support a creature in flight. As humans, we can’t create a material this light and so incredibly strong.”
Hong Kong’s tropical blend of concrete jungle and actual jungles run in sync with MccGwire’s artistic aesthetic that appreciates architecture and nature. “I love that some of the trees [in Hong Kong] are growing and creeping around contemporary buildings, almost [as if] nature is trying to take over,” she says. “My work is similar – wildlife seeps into your consciousness, demanding attention and making you re-examine your notions of avian life,” the artist concludes.
‘Secrete’ by Kate MccGwire will run until 9th December 2016 at Galerie Huit G/F, SOHO 189 Art Lane, 189 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.