Art – Disturbing, fiercely beautiful and stunning – visitors react to Kate MccGwire’s vast, feathered sculptures at The Harley Gallery

Disturbing, fiercely beautiful and stunning – visitors react to Kate MccGwire’s vast, feathered sculptures at The Harley Gallery.

Reaction to Kate MccGwire’s new show has been as powerful as the sculptures on display with The Harley Gallery’s owner William Parente describing ‘Dichotomy’ as “the finest exhibition we’ve ever put on”.

Featuring tens of thousands of feathers, quills, lead, fabric and drawings in a collection of more than 40 works, Dichotomy is the renowned British sculptor’s first career retrospective.  Winner of the Royal Academy of Arts’ Sculpture Award at the 2018 Summer Exhibition, Kate MccGwire describes her works as familiar yet otherworldly, beautiful and disquieting, tranquil and malicious.

(Link to high quality, downloadable images here, credit Drew Shearman unless otherwise stated)

Visitors to the exhibition have left written comments applauding the artist’s vision:
– “Disturbing, the artist achieves her aim to seduce and revolt at the same time”
– “Head says beautiful, gut says sinister. Excellent use of nature and making it show a darker side.”
– “A feather in thousands that says ‘Worcester’ – we’ve come from there to visit Welbeck, made our day!”
– “A completely stunning collection of work… compelling, visceral, fiercely beautiful and sublime”.

Dichotomy runs from 20 October 2018 – 2 January 2019. One of its highlights is ‘Sasse Sluice’, a vast piece created from more than 30,000 feathers sent to the artist by pigeon fanciers all over the UK. It shows the feathers flowing in the direction of an impending destructive tidal surge with the patterns and eddies that would form as it pours over a sluice .

Kate MccGwire: “I’m delighted to be able to bring this piece to the Harley Gallery. It’s a very impressive and energetic work of which I’m immensely proud. Pigeons are often considered to be dirty and disease-ridden but here the feathers look wonderful and have come from racing pigeon enthusiasts who have posted me the naturally moulted feathers – these birds have flown across the UK and often as far as Europe, but find their way back due to their miraculous homing instinct.

“This retrospective is very important to me. Bringing my work together has enabled me to see how it has developed and the recurring themes that have been in my imagination since childhood. I am interested in how we are drawn to things but repelled by them at the same time – the familiar, when seen out of place that defies reason. My forms are bodily and linked with ourselves, but made alien by the materials I use.”

The exhibition includes several short films about seemingly uncontrolled movement – from the timelapse of the artist’s hair growing over two months to the replacement of her son’s milk teeth with adult teeth over two years. There is also a new film showing the making process of the Vermiculus series where live maggots are coated in graphite and set free on sheets of white paper. The patterns are created as the larva instinctively crawl away to escape the light.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004 Kate 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 recently at Glasstress, an official collateral event of the Venice Biennale.

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