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Ars Natura: Flight of Fancy

  • Posted by karl burkart on January 17, 2010 in Art
  • In England, pigeons hold a societal position akin to the sewer rat. In fact that’s what Londoners call them, “rats with wings.” The Brits really, really don’t like these poor, feral birds.

    Amongst those Brits was Kate MccGwire, a young artist living in London. She found the creatures abhorrent but knowing that therein lay artistic promise, she set about on a “visceral interrogation” of pigeon feathers to unlock their hidden beauty.

    What she discovered was both a profound testament to the principles of fluid dynamics and the attention of the media, which has made MccGuire one of London’s brightest young art stars.

    Like Andy Goldsworthy meets Thomas Grunfeld, she converges two different artistic pathways both forged in the 90’s, each of which tackles the unsettling subject of death but in radically different ways – Goldsworthy’s zen-like meditations on nature and time AND Grunfeld’s deeply disturbing human alterations of the natural world.

    MccGuire’s bizarre, chimera-inspired coil of feathers (encased in glass Damien Hirst style) – Vex, 2008 and Rile, 2009 -- transcend the now commonplace taxidermy tinkerings so popular as of late. These things look and feel alive, like a sleeping baby dragon, or a feathered Quetzalcoatl.

    MccGuire’s creations are made entirely of feathers (wrapped around wire cages) and they are animated by an almost breathtaking precision that serves to highlight a perfect example of fluid dynamics. Serpent scales and bird feathers share a common principle of physics – they allow these creatures to flow effortlessly through two different mediums -- water and air respectively.

    MccGuire displays the artistic equivalent of fluid dynamics – manipulating a medium that just shouldn’t behave the way it does, transforming feathers into flights of fancy that make you think twice about the ugly old pigeon.

    - Karl Burkart

    (via Environmental Graffiti)

    Photo (Heave, 2008) courtesy Kate MccGuire


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