George Taylor on her latest exhibition Intimate Immensity

The multimedia artist uses exotic feathers to create complex optical designs. Her first major solo show in 10 years opens this month

(Image credit: Hasselblad X1D)

"Intimate Immensity" is named after a chapter from a book called The Poetics of Space (1958), written by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard – a study into the perception of architecture where the image comes before thought, association and memory before reasoned judgement. It is magical and has been my bible and go-to book for many years. There are 23 pieces in the show varying in size from 1ft to 7ft, working with optical movement and feathers. There is also a short film playing throughout the exhibition called Innocent Potency. I am hoping that people will feel absorbed by the richness of the feathers, especially with so many being hung at the same time. I'm really excited to see them all together, fingers crossed that people coming to see the show will be too.

The first piece of intricate featherwork I came across was at the age of 11 at the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford – an intoxicating space humming with mysticism. It was the Hawaiian feather cape (1842) that really captured my imagination. This coincided with moving to the farm in Gloucestershire shortly afterwards and collecting feathers. The feathers I use in my work are sourced from antique collections, taxidermists and millinery retailing; some even come from roadkill, and I'm often gifted ones destined for the table or the butchers.

The first part of the process is to draw the piece in pencil, possibly with projection if it's large scale – and using the all-important calculator – then a decision has to be made as to what direction the feathers must go in. If there is a correction needed the feathers have to be scraped off until that point. Every feather has to be prepared individually by separating one feather from the next, the plume taken off and the quill cut down. The prep work can take nearly as long as the sticking. I find the process therapeutic mostly. I realised the more meditative state of mind helps the process immensely; overthinking the outcome can hinder the concentration. A friend told me once to "stop bloody thinking and just get on with it".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The colours are built up in blocks, meaning it's hard to tell what material it is from afar, so as soon as you identify the texture is a feathered one you are drawn in to the piece. In my work, I am looking for a conceptual language to run parallel with my personal experience of the natural world, living and working on the farm. There are themes of mortality and sensuality – the merry-go-round of love, life, sex and death. Within this context it is the use of feathers that appeals to me. Birds have a natural sexual selection. Through evolution their feathers of extraordinary colours and shapes are displayed to one another in order to attract a mate. The urgency to sow the seed; to procreate before death. The quest to allure is an ancient one.

I would describe myself as a spiritual person and was brought up as a Quaker. I believe that there is a light within every one of us, but there's no need for the middleman to connect to God. I think this translates to the everyday, to feeling connected with friends, family, surroundings and the natural world.

George Taylor: Intimate Immensity runs from 7 March-14 April;

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us