Alastair Mackie stands in front of a mock-up of his House piece. Photo by Tessa Angus. Pic courtesy All Visual Arts
Exhibition preview: Alastair Mackie - Not Waving But Drowning, The David Roberts Art Foundation, London, January 16 - March 28 2009.
When sculptors speak of exploring challenging materials, they’re usually discussing traditional forms which are personally unorthodox to them. In the unlikely niche of working with barn owl pellets (the regurgitated indigestible parts of a mouse), Alastair Mackie has almost certainly formed a new market.
“Over a period of one year I collected tens of thousands of them,” says the 32-year-old, presenting his first solo exhibition for four years. “The fur was then spun into yarn and the yarn woven into a sheet of fabric with the use of a loom.
“The skeletons which are the by-products have been left in a heap alongside the loom to show the correlation between the length of fabric and amount of mice it took to make it.”
Untitled, detail photo by Tessa Angus. Pic courtesy All Visual Arts
So far, so odd, but the gruesome description is Mackie’s backlash after “starting to relax with the way that my work was going.”
“I had previously been doing a lot of group shows, but wanted to stop showing my work for a while so that I could take stock and focus more specifically on ideas.”
Untitled (+/-), the wooden loom woven from rodent hair he created last year, is one of three exhibits he’s introducing. Metamorphoses reverses the purpose of a 1930s glass taxidermy display case to confront the viewer with their own reflection through mirrors inside. House is a large-scale dolls house meticulously built from the wood pulp of approximately 300 abandoned wasp and hornet nests.
Metamorphoses, detail photo by Tessa Angus. Pic courtesy All Visual Arts
Curator Vincent Honoré reckons he chose the materials to “highlight the tensions between natural and constructed structures,” comparing his “certain sense of humour and absurdity” to Damien Hirst or Kris Martin.
The young British artists are a generation Mackie admits “helped me understand where I was coming from” as he watched them reach their peak while studying at art school.
“Much of their works shared a sense of sensationalism, which I appreciated, but this is quite different to the feeling that I'd like my own work to hold – which is quiet in comparison,” he says.
House, detail photo by Tessa Angus. Pic courtesy All Visual Arts
His next project will be his first outdoor piece, commissioned as a public art project by the Contemporary Art Society. If his current ideas are anything to go by, this is one young British artist worth keeping an eye on.