LURE at Winchester

Kate MccGwire
selected works

A solo exhibition by internationally renowned British artist Kate MccGwire is coming to Winchester this summer.

First shown in London at All Visual Arts, LURE will be on display at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre from Friday 21 June until Wednesday 28 August.

MccGwire creates staggeringly beautiful forms from thousands of painstakingly collected bird feathers. Using a network of pigeon-fanciers and game-keepers across the UK to gather her raw materials, MccGwire has been making animal-like forms from feathers since 2007.

Her initial catalyst for the feathers comes from her morning walks along the River Thames, where she works from her studio barge. She comments that on her route to work “I'd find myself picking up feathers and marvelling at their appearance; though their underside is unremarkable, their upper side is made for show, all jewel-like colours and iridescence. This material “duality” seems to me to be a fitting visual metaphor for the duplicity of nature, a theme that sits at the core of my work.”

The show takes the form of a contemporary cabinet of curiosity, consisting of a series of coiled, serpent-like forms reminiscent of a display in a 19th-century natural history museum. The space will be dominated by 'Gyre', a vast, organically twisting shape, made from thousands of crow feathers, which took MccGwire months to complete.

But what are these objects? Where do they come from? MccGwire says she enjoys the 'not knowing'. She continues, “there's no head, so it defies our idea of what an animal is, and yet it has creases and crevices that remind us of our own bodies. By mixing up the species – i.e. encasing a serpent-like shape in feathers – a kind of push-me/pull-you effect is created that keeps the viewer guessing and at the same time allows us to draw on the mythological associations.”

The use of different kinds of feathers also allows MccGwire to play with the cultural myths that attach themselves to particular birds: crows are traditionally regarded as deviant, as a symbol of evil and omen of misfortune; magpies as thieving and murderous; while pigeons enjoy a split reputation, as 'rats with wings' and as plucky messengers to the military.

Ultimately, for MccGwire, it's about taking a material that's apparently ordinary and making it extraordinary. Her practice references Freud's Unheimliche (the uncanny) - the idea, to quote Freud, of 'a place where the familiar can somehow excite fear'. It also embraces artistic notions of the Abject. In so doing, she creates a shift from a world in which objects sit in their conventional place and allows a new perspective, exposing the viewer, to the truths that lurk behind the familiar and to the reality of what it is to be human.

With impressive scale and technique, this is an exhibition not to be missed.

Notes to Editors:
Artist Kate MccGwire will be available for interviews at Winchester Discovery Centre from 4pm to 5pm on Thursday June 20. To book an interview slot please contact Louise Payne Press Officer, Hampshire County Council, Tel: 01962 846006, email: