Birds, flight and feathers – together these subjects have fascinated artists and scientists for centuries, touching on both the practicalities of flying and also the metaphor of soaring skywards. Artist Chris Maynard brings all these elements together in his work, which, with painstaking precision, makes the feather his means of expression.
Maynard has created a large body of work using feathers as his medium. His art pieces involve intricately cut feathers mounted inside shadowboxes, depicting scenes of birds in flight, often seeming to burst out of the feather from which they are cut. To achieve the level of detail that really makes these images, yes, fly, Maynard uses tools more usually associated with the operating theatre – the tiny cuts are made with surgery scissors, the individual strands of feather manipulated with forceps. In order to be able to see what he is creating, all of this painstaking work takes place through a magnifying glass.
With bird conservation an important concern to the artist, he is keen to stress that the feathers he uses are all legal to own and to sell – Maynard has a passionate interest in ecologist and no endangered species suffer for his art. He sources feathers from private aviaries and zoos, often that have naturally moulted from the bird. He often tries to use feathers of a certain bird to create an image of that same bird – swan feathers for a swan, peacocks’ for a peacock – and places importance on retaining the original colours and shapes of the natural feathers.
Displayed inside shadowboxes, the scenes he creates achieve not just a depth as they cast shadows into their mounting, but also a genuine sense of movement. The flocks of bird silhouettes really do appear to be soaring through the sky with surprising dynamism.
Maynard’s shadow box pieces themselves are available to buy, but he also creates prints of his work and even books full of images of his work and information about its creation and the feathers he uses. We also recommend his blog, a place where he shares his latest work alongside philosophical thoughts on art, ecology and the magic of flight.
All images copyright Chris Maynard.