• SEPAL SPECULUM 2012
    photography by IAN STUART

    An Interview with Kate MccGwire

    Written by Matilda Lundberg

    She describes herself as a sculptor, gatherer, hoarder, collector and creator. She is infatuated by feathers, fascinated by the uncanny and the binary concepts of darkness and beauty. Kate MccGwire is a London-based artist who makes works of art that catches and allures the viewer. Inspired by the way the world works she uses old feathers to create new life.

    How does a normal day in your life look?
    Generally my day starts with a walk along the river with Tilly, our ‘studio dog’. It’s a great way to get the day going and means I get to pick up all sorts of feathers. Mostly pigeon, but also wild parakeet feathers – there’s a rumour that they escaped from nearby Shepperton Studios during the filming of The African Queen (1951) but they’re more likely just escaped pets, which have flocked to the open spaces outside central London. My walk ends with a short boat trip across the river to my studio, a Dutch barge moored on an island on the Thames. I then light the wood-burning stove, make a mug of tea and check emails. If there’s a piece of work in progress I’ll start on it around 10am and carry on until lunch. The whole studio stops to eat so if I have any assistants in we all make lunch together and talk about upcoming projects. The day ends around 6pm but I often stay much later; time flies when I’m really stuck into a project.

    Where do you find inspiration?
    The peculiarities of the everyday are inspiring to me; the contradictions, patterns and impossibilities of nature are a source of endless fascination. I’m constantly in awe of how the world works on both a micro and macro scale. From the precise engineering of a feather to the patterns of a murmuration of starlings, the world is a boundless muse.

    You use a lot of feathers in your artworks, where do you find them all?
    It depends. The pigeon feathers come from a network of pigeon-fanciers I’ve been building up over the last five years. By necessity I’ve had to immerse myself in the pigeon-racing world and I can’t tell you how supportive they’ve been. I once took a stand at one of the annual pigeon-racing shows in the far North-East of England; people were asked to bring along bags of feathers from their pigeon coops and in return got their names put into a hat to win a work. It all felt a bit incongruous but I was made to feel very welcome – the fanciers seem to love the fact that I’m making something beautiful out of their precious birds’ moultings. The birds shed their feathers twice a year, in April and October, so there are just two windows of time in which to gather in as many feathers as they can send me.

    The crow, jackdaw and magpie feathers come from local gamekeepers; the birds themselves may not be cherished by the farmers whose crops they destroy but their feathers are – at least by me. The business of collecting the materials and creating the works feels satisfyingly intertwined and creates a kind of virtuous circle all of its own. Relying on the goodwill of all these individuals gives a human dimension to the collection process, which is mirrored in the many hands required to actually make the work.

    Take me through your work process, how do you create your artwork?
    I reflect, consider and fabricate pieces over and over again in my mind before I ever commit anything to paper. The mind is a malleable canvas, while physical mistakes can be hard to undo, I can work through the design and practical considerations in my head before I begin to work. Once a sculpture is started the form and scale will have been decided and the process becomes much more meditative.


    When you create your pieces, do you always have a clear image in your head how it will turn out, or do you realize as you work?
    I design and create through making, so letting my materials guide me is very much a part of the process. The patterning and movement in the feathers is what brings the pieces to life, this is something you get a feel for and not something you can pre-plan. I frequently have more than one work on the go at once so it’s a cyclical, endless process, which becomes completely immersive. I often look back at a finished piece of work and think ‘did I make that?’ It’s like they have a life of their own. This is in contrast to the realization of the forms as while the process of feathering is very fluid, the structural elements of the work must be finalized before I start. Once I begin to apply the feathers to the form, the piece can’t be edited without damaging the work, so those choices have to be made at the beginning.

    Your artworks look like you have put a lot of time and effort into them, how do you know when you are finished with a piece?
    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. This makes it difficult to finish with a piece as I am forever fiddling with them, tweaking and touching here and there. I get very attached to my works and really hate them leaving the studio, there’s always a massive void when the work that I’ve been living and breathing departs for an exhibition.

    Is there one work of art that you made that is extra special to you (and if so, why that one)?
    Gag has always been one of my favorite works. There’s a certain harmony to it, which was immensely satisfying to create. It worked so well within its cabinet, perfect shape and size to seem at once trapped and seething. It’s a work that has always stayed with me.

    Do you have a dream project that you have not yet had the chance to do?
    I would love to create a series of cabinet works to show within the setting of a natural history collection. I think the juxtaposition of the authentic and the inauthentic objects would really mess with your head. While the case gives the work the impression of a genuine specimen, it is at once alien and isolated within the familiar framework of natural history. I touched on this when I exhibited Discharge at the Palaeontology & Compared Anatomy Galleries in Paris as part of Nuit Blanche but I think taxidermied specimens would provide a more uncanny backdrop than the gorgeous parade of skeletons in the Paris Natural history Museum.

    Finally, what comes next for you, what will you be up to this spring and summer?
    I’m currently working on numerous private commissions as well as a new body of work and preparations for a solo show in Winchester in June. Plus I’ll be heading back to Paris in the autumn, but that’s under wraps for now, I’ll have to keep you posted!

    Kate MccGwire
    March 2013
    www.katemccgwire.com
    www.allvisualarts.org

    WONDERFUL - Group Show
    29 November 2012 – 28 April 2013
    me Collectors Room, Berlin

    LURE - Solo Show
    Winchester Art Gallery, The Discovery Centre
    21 June – 28 August 2013

    ANIMA 2012
    photography by IAN STUART
    GAG 2009
    photography by JP BLAND
    EVACUATE 2010
    photography by JONTY WILDE
    URGE 2009
    photography by TESSA ANGUS
    WARP 2010
    photography by TESSA ANGUS
    SPLICE 2012
    photography by JP BLAND
    SLUICE 2009
    photography by FRANCIS WARE
    SEPAL 2011
    photography COURTESTY OF ARTIST
    ABOUT THE ARTWORK
     
     
    SEPAL SPECULUM
    material: mallard speculum feathers on archival board
    dimentions: 43 x 43 x 5cm
     
    GAG
    material: mixed media with crow feathers in antique museum cabinet
    dimentions: 151 x 60 x 60 cm
     
    EVACUATE
    material: mixed media with game feathers
    dimentions: 400 x 250 x 120 cm
     
    URGE
    material: mixed media with mallard blue, magpie, jackdaw feathers in antique cabinet
    dimentions: 153 x 68 x 48 cm
     
    ANIMA
    material: mixed media with pigeon/dove feathers in an antique glass dome
    dimentions: 69 x 43 x 43 cm
     
    SEPAL
    material: pigeon wing feathers  on archival board
    dimentions: 43 x 43 x 5cm
     
    WARP
    material: mixed media with magpie feathers in antique glass dome
    dimentions: 38 x 38 x 50 cm
     
    SPLICE
    material: mixed media with magpie feathers
    dimentions: 30 x 32 x 130 cm
     
    SLUICE
    material: mixed media with pigeon feathers
    dimentions: 5000 x 3000 x 30 cm
  • photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG

    An interview with Alistair Frost and Behnaz Aram

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Fire Sale is a collaboration between artist Alistair Frost and designer Behnaz Aram. It is Alistair’s first time in Sweden and Behnaz first time curating.

    The day before the opening I sit down with the two of them at Bukowski’s auction house.
    We talk about the color pink, pears and how designing clothes and painting canvases are just two different ways of expressing yourself artistically.

    So the exhibition starts tomorrow, tell me, what are we going to see?
    Alistair:
    There are some new paintings that I’ve made during the last couple of months and then there’s some work from last year. There are also a few paintings from an exhibition I had in Scotland and some from Copenhagen.

    Tell me everything from the beginning, tell me the entire story.
    Alistair:
    Ok, where do I start…
    I guess what we’ve got here are these kinds of signs and symbols, kind of like contemporary life, or stuff you might find as graphic design, or on web pages or in text messages, things that are just out there, but very generic. And then they are re-configured and put together in different ways that creates a kind of semi-language of stuff. That is on the one hand quite celebratory of that kind of thing, of lifestyle and art, but it’s also on the other hand slightly cynical, kind of like laughing at everyone else but at the same time at myself too.

    We are sitting in the middle of the exhibition space, surrounded by Alistair’s art, the pieces have not been hung yet; they are standing on the floor leaning against the walls. We decide to talk about a few of them specifically. The first we talk about is a series of three cotton candy pink ones, just across the room.

    Alistair: All these pink ones, they all go together with a water cooler and they are going to be filled with vodka and pink lemonade. So you have this color pink, it’s almost as if the pigment of the paint is being transferred and put into the cooler for drinking.
    I’ve done a lot of work that has to do with bars and opening nights, you know, when everyone is kind of strutting around with martini glasses and that kind of thing. So this is a way to bring in that element, the sense of an opening night but making it a bit wrong, something that is not quite right.
    So we have two items that go with each other, the canvases and the coolers and then in the paintings there’s also a doubling up of imagery. One of the paintings has two pears on it. You know it’s a joke, a pair of pears. It’s quite dumb and stupid but then you have it with this calligraphic mark that makes it look fluid, easy and light.

    Alistair points at another painting; it says the word two on it and is split up in two images. He explains them as a still of when you swipe an image across the phone, but instead of a phone he does it with the canvas. There is a strong digital reference to most of the work, reminding us (at least me) of how disabled one feels without access to a computer or a phone. There is also a clear Miami vibe going on with a couple of the pieces, especially the pink ones.

    Alistair: All of the paintings I have been working on for the last few years are created while taking generics, like clip art and stock illustrations, to play around with, to draw on and repeat.



    Behnaz: The things is, there are some artists that when they do something it looks rough and it feels rough, your work is kind of cynical as you said, but also it has this lightness to it combined with color blocking and hard lines, the soft pink and the sharp black, it is a lot about contradictions.

    We have a small chat about color, to state that the three of us are all dressed in black. Every year there is a new black says Behnaz.

    Behnaz: Speaking of Miami, when I went to the Basil art fair last summer, it was so nice to see the new art, it was kind of optimistic in a way, the paintings, the installations, sculptures and the video installations, everything was in a way hopeful. Usually a lot of artwork is dark, the end of the world, judgment day, Armageddon feeling. I think around year 2000 or 2001, I was trendy to be a bit dark and heavy, kind of like, me and my issues..

    Alistair: Yeah, that’s kind of the opposite of what I am trying to do.
    I would absolutely not want to be in the end of negative.

    I ask Behnaz how it has been to work with art pieces instead of textiles.

    Behnaz: This is the first time for me curating, except from when I am just being anal in my flat hanging paintings. I usually prefer the constellations to be quite stressful, I mean, I have a lot hanging on my walls.
    It’s been really interesting listening to Alistair talk about his art and about his ideas of how to showcase the images. I am learning a lot. And it has given me and idea of how I want things to be placed.

    Will you be able to use this experience in your design?
    Behnaz:
    Definitely! I always get inspired by art, everything I do, either fashion or costumes; art is a big and important element.

    Alistair: It’s all about being creative. Someone asked me once, how is what you do different from being a graphic designer?
    And I answered, you know, in one way it is not. I mean, I use the same tools, the same language, I just happened to present it in another way.

    One of the most important things during the event is that the people should have a good time says Alistair, serving pink vodka and all. I am feeling very satisfied with our talk and I know they have a lot of work left, so lastly I ask Alistair, what do you think about Stockholm?

    Alistair: What I think about Stockholm? It is great and… very cold.

  • an interview with
    photography by DANIEL STJERNE

    An interview with Vibe Johansson

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Vibe Johansson stands for unique and well tailored design, mixing modern, minimalistic influences with dramatic couture draping.
    She is a producer of style, not trends.

    During Copenhagen Fashion Week I had the chance to swing by her AW13 launch reception, held at (according to Vibe) one of the most unique stores in Denmark, &Pagne.
    At the party her creations were shown on manikins, as structured sculptures accompanied with a video projected on the wall, showing the all-in-black collection.

    Tell me about your aesthetics…
     
    My aesthetics are quite simplistic and minimal. I prefer to work with shapes and forms and not so much colors and prints. I don’t like too many clear references, and try to avoid retrospective influences; I am not nostalgic whatsoever.  I always search for new impressions and expressions. I have other creative outputs besides clothing, for example painting and writing, and the aesthetics goal is always the same.

    What is the most important and essential on your design?
     
    As cliché as it may sound, my goal design-wise is simply to create garments that are original and aesthetically beautiful at the same time.
     
    What about the constructing part, how do you start?
     
    It all begins with the construction for me. I experiment a lot with my fabrics, before deciding in which direction I want to take the new collection. It all depends on the shapes and drape of fabrics, and I start the design process only later.
    Usually I start out with a large square piece of fabric, and modify and mould it on the mannequin for days, until I am happy with it. I have never outsourced the construction part of a single pattern.
     
    How is the climate for avant-garde fashion in Copenhagen?
     
    The climate for avant-garde designers in Copenhagen is ok; There is a good selection of very interesting smaller labels, and they do get some exposure during the fashion weeks here, but overall Copenhagen as a fashion city is quite commercial and people are focused on latest trends more than personalizing their looks. Therefore lots of smaller labels are more focused on foreign markets, as I am myself, with Asia being my biggest market. Also I wish that the fashion scene in Copenhagen could merge more with the music and art-scene as for example in Berlin and London, where there seems to be a more creative environment overall. Don’t get me wrong, musicians do work closely with designers here as well, but it always seems to be with a commercial focus, too much image building and product placement for my taste, instead of collaborating towards a common aesthetics. 
     
    How do you want people to feel while wearing your garments?
     
    I would love for people to feel comfortable and special; to give them a feeling of expressing themselves without “playing dress up”. I want to create clothes that are worn, and not left hanging in the closet because they demand too much of people.

    Please tell me about a regular day in your life…
     
    My daily life has changed dramatically after having my baby girl. Everything revolves around her at the moment, but I have a supportive husband and family, and try to find time to work as well, mostly during the evenings after I put her to sleep. Ask me again in a year.

    Since you recently became a mother, have the new emotions and experiences changed your design in any way?

    Becoming a mother is a life changing experience – and I did expect it to have an effect on my work process; as it turns out, I have become more efficient - as a baby takes a lot of work! Before she came along I spent a lot of time inside my head, contemplating every small decision for a long time. Now I find myself moving over aesthetic obstacles in a more relaxed way instead of over-thinking every detail. This has proven to be a welcome change and the feedback for the new collection has been the best ever. 

    Do you have any role models within fashion?
     
    I admire people who have succeeded in creative industries on their own and without compromise. It can be very tough and takes years of hard work and patience before people start to recognize your work, and to actually make a living. Contrary to some beliefs, fashion is not always a glamorous industry. I recently read an interview with Rick Owens, where he stated that his company is a labor of love, that wouldn’t be of any interest to investors set out to make money. I have realized this myself over the past few years, being involved with an investor myself from 2009-2010. It ended badly as they were interested only in a quick return of investment and tried to make me compromise my creative long term vision. I was suspended from the label for a short time, but bought back the rights to my name in 2011, which was a huge relief. Since then I have been very determined to make it without the help of banks and investors.
    Creating a company I can be proud of in the future is my main goal, and to do that I need to protect the creative core values.
    Something very interesting is happening at the moment for other creative industries, where artists, musicians and creative entrepreneurs are using alternative funding methods for their projects, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, leaving them 100%  independent and in charge of their products. I would love to see this rub off on the fashion industry as well. The most beautiful things are created when people work with a passion instead of working to make a living.
     
    What kind of clothes would we find in your closet? Which are your favorite ready to wear brands/designers?
     
    I never wear color. It has not been a conscious choice it just happened that way over time. I am more comfortable in black. I never choose items based solely on the brand name. Fabric, quality and fit are more important, but I generally love everything from designers such as Haider Ackermann, Limi Feu and Barbara I Gongini. And I am the first to check out the new collections from large fashion houses like Lanvin, Comme des Garçons and Balenciaga as soon as they are online.
     
    Is there any type of garment that you would never wear? If yes, what and why?
     
    I feel incredibly uncomfortable in too girly clothes and would never be caught dead in bohemian! 

    Can you tell us about the future? What is next for Vibe Johansson?
     
    The future looks very exciting at the moment; I have recently been selected by the EU Gateway Business Mission Japan, to participate in an exhibition and runway show in Tokyo in March. I am expecting it to be an awesome trip! Things are generally looking very good in Asia, and I feel like that is a market I need to explore even further; which means a lot of traveling plans for the coming year. Also, I am currently looking for a new location for my workshop and showroom in Copenhagen, and planning a restructuring of the company, giving me even more time to focus on what is important – creative growth. In general I feel very optimistic.

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