Mysterious feathers cause Kate MccGwire's Lure to seduce and repel in Winchester

By Jane Crowley | 13 August 2013

Exhibition Review: Kate MccGwire – Lure, Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, until August 28 2013

A photo of a white curvy sculpture made out of loads of white feathers inside a box
Kate MccGwire, Cleave© Tessa Angus, courtesy Kate MccGwire
Almost eight meters long, Gyre demands not to be ignored – a deluge of black feathers, it spills from the wall and calls to mind water or oil, a great curling python, an intestine or umbilical cord.

It is hard to pin down – as, indeed, is most of the work on show in LURE, Kate MccGwire’s retrospective exhibition.

Once the chance presents itself to look away from Gyre and around the room, the first impression is a stark one. The pieces are largely presented in Victorian glass bell jars and specimen cases or suspended from the walls– black, white and grey hold sway here.

Gradually, though, colours begin to show themselves. The Garrulous series comprises three delicate kaleidoscopes of mirrors and blue jay feathers, hidden inside unassuming black boxes by the entrance. The mallard feathers that make up Orchis shimmer navy, green and violet.

The exhibition information claims that MccGwire was inspired by pigeon feathers found by chance, and the realisation that these sloughed off, leftover objects were both “vile and beautiful”, leading to a desire to create art that could “seduce and repel in equal measure”.

The contrary nature of the medium lends itself to an exploration of paradoxes. The extracts from Birds Britannica on the walls point to the traditional associations of crows, magpies, pigeons and jays (the birds whose feathers MccGwire most commonly works with) with death and disease of livestock, but also the associations with beauty, showiness and femininity.

Certainly there is a sense of the macabre here – the presentation cases and the feathers themselves call to mind 18th century taxidermy, and the organic, bodily nature of the curving, undulating forms is hard to miss.

From the lung-shaped Orchis, the viewer moves to a series of tiny quill-ends of crow feathers laid out on off-white board like so many fragile bones.

Around the corner is Dwell Nimbus, brain-like in a glass shell, made from a multitude of pigeon feathers graduating from grey to white – a frozen storm cloud caught and bolted down.

This particular piece usually spends its days in a private collection, and LURE is a rare chance for the public to observe its curious beauty.

The exhibition is intended to act as a “wonder room”, a place to stare and marvel. As the name suggests, the pieces draw you in with their strangeness and offer questions without answers.

Upon leaving, one is struck with the same sense of confusion that must seize the fish pulled from the water, also lured by feathers.

  • Open 9am-7pm (5pm Saturday, 11am-3pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the centre on Twitter @WinchesterDC‎.

More pictures:

An image of a flourescent dark blue curved sculpture within a glass jar on a black plinth
Orchis© Tessa Angus, courtesy Kate MccGwire
A photo of a curved dark black anchor style sculpture made from black feathers
Taunt© Tessa Angus, courtesy Kate MccGwire
A photo of a curved figure of eight-type sculpture in a box made from dark blue feathers
Coerce© Tessa Angus, courtesy Kate MccGwire
A photo of an interlinked dark blue sculpture made of feathers against a white wall
Splice© JP Bland
A photo of a dark brown mahogany piece of wood on top of a dark chair in a gallery
Coerce© Tessa Angus, courtesy Kate MccGwire
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