An oscillation between beauty and tainted beauty lies at the heart of Complicit. The places where these seemingly opposite categories overlap or blur are explored in new and recent works by Kate MccGwire, Juliette Losq and Jayne Anita Smith, wherein a strange sense of attraction and abjection is navigated. The artists’ two and three-dimensional pieces hover in these in-between, liminal spaces, on the borders or thresholds of contrasting ideas. This approach opens up each artist’s practice to possibilities and interpretations.
Through a variety of techniques and materials including paper, ink, graphite, watercolour, glass and a variety of bird feathers, the artists’ works begin a three-part conversation within Complicit. The dialogue facilitates connections and contrasts amongst their separate bodies of work. MccGwire, Losq and Smith’s practices particularly interrogate human relationships to rural and urban exterior landscapes. This conversation may introduce to the exhibition space a sense of disorientation, as a feeling of the uncanny is derived from these real and imaginary liminal sites. With each artwork acting as a sensual and sensory invitation to explore other worlds, Complicit offers a place for a series of unique and unsettling encounters.
MccGwire brings together a ubiquitous feature of the urban environment with references to historical museum taxidermy display through her use of pigeon, crow, magpie and other feathers, signature materials and motifs within her practice. By placing common bird feathers under a glass vitrine, within a context more usually reserved for rare and exotic animal specimens, MccGwire questions the status of these creatures and our relationship to them. She transforms these feathers into sculptures with new, ambiguously swirling or concentric forms. At once shimmeringly beautiful and redolent of vermin, the works are both seductive and highly unsettling.
Similarly disconcerting qualities can be found within Losq’s two-dimensional and installation pieces. Highlighting neglected and abandoned semi-urban landscape clearings strewn with rubbish or covered in graffiti, her practice uncovers a beauty and a wildness within these familiar but liminal spaces. The works are devoid of all human figures but traces of their activity are left behind. The artist’s large shaped, rolled and torn paper-based installations interact with the architecture of the rooms they are displayed within in a highly theatrical way. Losq transforms the exhibition arena into a romantic and uncanny place where anything might happen – a sense of anticipation is felt. The beautiful excess of her installations threatens to creep up on and envelop the viewer, who becomes protagonist within the scene.
Smith’s drawings and paintings, meanwhile, depict ambiguous environments populated by strange human figures in overt pain and in suffering. Sometimes these places seem to depict lush forests or aspects of domestic interiors, such as Rococo chandeliers or wall paper patterns formed from curls, drips and washes of ink. Naked and fully clothed figures wearing historical garments emerge from whirling forms derived from memories and found images. Their character and emotional expression are informed by the artist’s reactions to images of suffering in the media. Smith’s works have a heightened feeling of movement. They seem to shift and form new patterns and figures constantly.