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Friday, 17 May 2013

collecting as art practice

Kate MccGwire, braided magpie feathers.

Kate MccGwire is an artist who is "infatuated with" her materials: feathers, mostly.

Pigeon feathers, white as flame or dappled with the colours of the earth. Crow feathers of light-eating black. Magpie feathers: a dark aurora, a rainbow dipped in night.

She sources them from local farmers, or finds them for herself walking by the river with her dog each morning in London. She describes herself as a "gatherer, hoarder, collector and creator." 

MccGwire says: “The business of collecting the materials and creating the works feels satisfyingly intertwined.... I find that handling, cleaning and sorting enables you to understand your materials on a more intimate level. By learning and creating through touch you can get a much better feel for the work. The process of making becomes more sensory, even meditative, and you can lose yourself in the act.”

An ocean and a continent away, Canadian artist Lyndal Osborne engages in a similar process. In walking by a river -- daily, meditatively -- she finds her medium. She finds poetry in the forms and textures of nature: stalks and seed pods, leaves, wasps' nests, flower heads, roots and berries, and organics of all sorts. She gathers them, dries them, sorts them, and keeps them in her own personal "natural history museum" in her home. For Osborne, this is an integral part of the artmaking. Building a deeper understanding of the materials, forging new associations between one thing and another, creating new connections. Making meanings.

For both of these artists, understanding comes through the material.

Lyndal Osborne. Surge. 1995.

* Quotes about/by Kate MccGwire are from Matilda Lundberg, Odalisque magazine, 2013-04-04.

** Lyndal Osborne information is based on an artist's talk she gave several years ago, as well as a recent article in Galleries West magazine: "Natural Abundance: Lyndal Osborne's Lyrical Vision". Summer 2013.

For more posts about Lyndal Osborne, see spinners; or approaches. See more of Kate MccGwire's work in the following posts: the luminescence of the night sky; holy waters; and out of the fire.

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