Good chance to get to hear Kate MccGwire today at Hong Kong Arts Centre: she was here to install her exhibition at a local commercial gallery, Galerie Huit, opening next week.
I’ve seen Kate’s work at Art Central and loved it: her feather sculptures are amazing, sinister, abstract, sinuous, violent- and her pictures (I don’t know what to call them) images made of lead lined with feathers, like bullet holes with teeth, rather scary, beside extremely peaceful landscapes constructed with overlapping feathers.
I was interested in hearing her talk about how and why she often presents her works in glass cases, as this was something that I am also considering regarding some of my pieces.
Her feather sculptures evoke organic forms, human bodies or knots. She said she collects glass cases- old pieces, that would probably have been used for stuffed natural specimens- by doing thus she creates context- gives them the air of being aged museum pieces, scientific objects even.
She also spoke of HOW she fits them into the cases- she makes her sculptures to fit the case as nearly as possible, so that sometimes they may appear to be close to bursting out. This gives the pieces an energy that adds to their constrained force that they get from being tense, knotted structures already.
She said that this idea of containment was important to her as it also suggested the containment if her idea inside her head, things that burst out into her work.
While she was talking, I thought about my own ideas of presenting the portrait work relating to my mother. I could see how the idea of putting it into an old suitcase was also relating to this idea of containment, of emotions. The link to “emotional baggage” is also there. But I also realised the way the old suitcase, like MccGwire’s antique cases, creates a historical context. There is also a sense of revelation, as a suitcase is something that can be opened, and that is also a potential threat, as it may may reveal things hidden or forgotten. But it also evokes a sense of preservation, of something stored because it is valuable, an heirloom. All in all, I feel convinced by this choice now, and am happy that listening to the artist talk helped me articulate the reasons.