Complicit – Kate MccGwire, Juliette Losq and Anita Smith at Gallery 8, London

Gallery 8 in London hosts Complicit, a collection of artwork by a trio of strong female artists presented by Coates & Scarry: Kate MccGwire, Juliette Losq and Anita Smith. Each artwork acts as a sensory invitation to explore other worlds and the show as a whole offers a place for unique and unsettling encounters. The prestige of the exhibition is without doubt; renowned British sculptor Kate MccGwire, returning from a successful stint at Glastress at the Venice Biennale, and recent show at the RWA Bristol with Peter Randall Page, contributes unique and truly original creations. An oscillation between beauty and tainted glamour lies at the heart of the exhibition. The moments where these seemingly opposite states overlap are explored by each artist.

The two and three-dimensional pieces are created through a variety of techniques and materials such as paper, ink, graphite, watercolour, glass and a variety of bird feathers. 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, which form signature motifs within her practice. MccGwire’s work centres on the status of animals – by placing common bird feathers under a glass vitrine, a context more usually reserved for rare and exotic animal specimens, she questions the value we place on  living creatures. The feathers are transformed into sculptures with swirling or concentric forms. Both stunningly attractive and reminiscent of vermin, the works are at once seductive and unsettling. Juliette Losq’s work is similarly provocative – her two-dimensional and installation pieces highlight neglected and semi-urban landscape clearings strewn with rubbish or covered in graffiti. Losq’s practice uncovers a beauty and wildness in familiar but limited spaces. The works are devoid of all human figures but traces of their activity are left behind. The artist’s large rolled and torn paper-based installations interact with the architecture of the rooms in a theatrical manner.

Conversely, Jayne Anita Smith’s drawings and paintings depict ambiguous environments populated by strange human figures in overt pain and suffering. Sometimes these places seem to depict lush forests or aspects of domestic interiors, such as Rococo chandeliers or wallpaper patterns formed from curls, drips and washes of ink. Naked and fully clothed figures wearing historical garments spring forth from whirling forms derived from memories and found images. Their character and emotional expression are informed by the Smith’s reactions to images of suffering in the media. Gallery 8 provides an inviting space in which to consume modern art and witness contemporary culture away from the crowds of central London’s most frequented galleries.

ComplicitGallery 8, 8 Duke Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6BN, 14 July – 2 August.

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1. Kate MccGwire, detail. Courtesy of the artist and JP Bland.