What can I say about today’s featured artist, apart from that she is one of my all time favourite artists.
Her grand, almost industrial bird feature sculptures are great not only in size and complexity, but skill and depth. They are enchanting, surreal and mesmerising.
Almost like snakes, they contour and coil around themselves and interiors, (bringing to mind the basilisk from The Chamber Of Secrets!) Iconic and vast.
Known for and steeped strongly in symbolism, Kate uses feathers. Sourced responsibly, Kate tells me “Birds moult naturally twice a year and I collect those moultings or otherwise as a waste product from another industry. To collect these materials responsibly I engage a wide range of individuals, from butchers and games keepers, to pigeon fanciers.”
First off Kate, what is your Instagram handle?@kate_mccgwire
And Kate, Where are you answering these questions from?My studio, a 112 year old Dutch barge on the River Thames.
That sounds stunning! Kate, how would you describe your work in just three words?Sensuous, Uncanny, Seething
Let's find out about your story - What is your artist story? How were you trained? How did you get to where you are now?Making and creating has always been part of my life, however it was deciding to return to art school as a mature student, which was the turning point for myself and my practice. I did a BA in Fine Art at University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham, before my MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. From there, my practice has been about making the most of opportunities and allowing my work to grow as organically as possible, keeping my head down and focussing on the work - not getting sidetracked or knocked off course by trends - believing in what I do.
Do you remember - what was the first artwork you remember creating yourself? And what was your earliest memory surrounding art?I’m not sure I remember the first piece I ever made as I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make stuff. My mum has a painting of mine of a peacock feather that I painted when I was about 11. I vividly remember visiting the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition that was was on in London at the British Museum in 1972 Coming to London from rural Norfolk was a special treat but seeing the gilded treasures of Tutankhamun was completely mind-blowing aged 8 .
Kate, if you could invite any artist from any time to dinner in your home:
a) who would it be?
b) what would you serve, and why?Louise Bourgeois - I would so love to attended her salon/ discussion evenings.I’d make something in advance that was tasty and easy to serve, as I’d like to spend as much time in conversation over dinner as possible!
Do you collect artwork yourself? If so, what are some of your prized pieces in your collection?I have a few pieces that I’ve collected over the years. They’re mostly by friends who are artists, so have added sentimental value. I have drawings, paintings and prints from Hen Coleman, who studied with me at the RCA; a tiny bronze by Peter Randall Page, who I was very honoured to exhibit with in 2015 as part of a two-man show at the RWA; a lovely provocative collage by Kate Street; and I’m soon to be the proud owner of a Doug White Lichtenberg drawing (we also studied together at the RCA).
"Sketching is key to my practice, playing with shapes and forms in 2D, allows me the freedom that you don’t always have with sculptural mediums."
to add to those works - what would be your dream artwork to collect? If money, space or likelihood was no issue?That’s a tricky question!, too many to choose from. Pretty much everything by Louise Bourgeois, a sculpture by Paloma Varga Weisz, a Francesca Woodman photograph and a Marlenne Dumas painting please.
Have you always been drawn to sculpture over other mediums?When I was starting my BA in Fine Art, I returned to art school thinking that I was going to be painter, but when I tried the sculpture department I was completely inspired by the endless possibilities - and haven’t looked back since. Drawing and 2D elements are still very much part of my practice, but my mind often translates these ideas into 3D works.
It may be a silly question, but how do you come by all your feathers for your work Kate?Birds moult naturally twice a year and I collect those moultings or otherwise as a waste product from another industry. To collect these materials responsibly I engage a wide range of individuals, from butchers and games keepers, to pigeon fanciers.
What are your favourite feathers to work with?Magpie? Crow? Pigeon!? Hard to choose…
Can you tell us a bit about your process, from that spark of an idea to execution? Do you do many preliminary works in between?Sketching is key to my practice, playing with shapes and forms in 2D, allows me the freedom that you don’t always have with sculptural mediums. I also let the materials guide me, my work is about working with natural materials, celebrating them, re-framing them. After nearly 20 years of working with feathers, I almost feel like the pieces create themselves in my mind - figures and feathers fuse together as the process unfolds until I sit back and look at the completed work and think… did I make that.
How would you describe the role of an artist?To change perceptions and allow people to see the world differently. To be a catalyst for moment of contemplation, where you pause, look, listen and think….
What would be your dream project?I’d like to create a permanent installation for a museum or public gallery.
Kate, do you have any upcoming shows or project we should know about?Yes I have two exhibitions open at the moment:FEATHERS | FEDERN: WÄRMEN, VERFÜHREN, FLIEGENGewerbe Museum, Winterthur | Switzerland1 December 2019 - 1 November 2020MENAGERIE: KATE MccGWIREHarewood House, Yorkshire | UK20 July – 25 October 2020I also have a solo exhibition coming up in Paris in the Spring at Galerie Les Filles Du Calvaire - Covid permitting!!
Who are your favourite historical female artists?Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse Käthe Kollewitz Frida Kahlo, Lee Millar, Meret Oppenheim
And who are your favourite current practicing female artists and their instagram handles?Some of absolute favourites do not have instagram accountsBerlinde de BruyckerePaloma Varga WeiszMarlene DumasDoris SalcedoMona HatoumCarolein Smit @smitcaroleinCaroline Walker @carolinewalkerartistDorothy Cross @Dorothy_crossCornelia Parker @corneliaparkerartistMarcelle Hanslaar @m_hanselaar
Who should She Curates interview next (as many as you like?)?Marcelle Hanslaar @m_hanselaarCarolein Smit @smitcarolein
Is there anything else you wanted to say?Just a big thank you!!