Exhibition

Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire from MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp on Vimeo.

‘I collect, sort, reuse, layer, peel, burn, reveal, localise, question, duplicate, play and photograph.’

Kate MccGwire, Vex, 2008, Mixed media with pigeon feathers in antique cabinet at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

Kate MccGwire, Vex, 2008, Mixed media with pigeon feathers in antique cabinet at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

MoMu invited the renowned British artist Kate MccGwire to intervene with her works in the expo Birds of Paradise. MccGwire primarily works with pigeon and crow feathers, birds that today evoke mainly negative and corny connotations. She likes to respond to people’s prejudice about certain types of feathers, e.g. the pigeon that stands for innocence and romance but at the same time is considered an urban plague. Her tender and large feather sculptures, and impressionable works of art, transcend the mundane charac- ter of the pigeon feathers, which are residual products from pigeon breeding farms and often have red race numbers printed on them. She describes her work method as a way to discover and reinforce the beauty in the unconventional.

Kate MccGwire, Stifle, 2009 and Preen, 2013, Mixed media with dove and white pigeon feathers in antique glass domes at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

Kate MccGwire, Stifle, 2009 and Preen, 2013, Mixed media with dove and white pigeon feathers in antique glass domes at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

Her works are not just beautiful; they also force viewers to question their own outlook on life. They respond to emotion and ratio and have characteristics of the ‘Unheimliche’, the Freudian concept where a familiar concept is displayed in a strange way and therefore causes agitation. The mundane reality is questioned by a work that is clearly ‘different’.

Kate MccGwire, Gyre, 2012, Mixed media and crow feathers at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

Kate MccGwire, Gyre, 2012, Mixed media and crow feathers at the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers exhibition, MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, Photo: Boy Kortekaas

The round space in the expo is dominated by the formidable arc of Gyre, a large installation piece formed from a vast collection of crow feathers. Gyre refers to the cultural mythologies of crows as devious creatures, omens of bad luck when seen in pairs and closely associated with death. These associations are inscribed in the silken black surface of the structure, and intensify with the scale of the work. The piece appears to be organic, expresses MccGwire’s uncanny capacity to create fluidity and supple motion in her static sculptures.

Though Gyre appears disturbing and unfamiliar at first glance, there is something strangely recognisable about it’s form — the creases and crevices seem somehow bodily, allowing us to identify some small part of ourselves in the sculptures. This unexpected familiarity is at the heart of MccGwire’s oeuvre.