At what age was it that you created a piece of art and realised this was going to be such a huge part of your life?
As a child I was constantly creative, constantly making, constantly doing, so it was more the other way around, it was more what a shock not to be doing that and not to be living your life from that place – if anything I have spent the rest of my life coming back to exactly how it was in the early days. From a professional angle, my family have always been interested in art, interiors and design and my Uncle was very good friends with the American artist Don Sellier and he had a piece of his work which was a very large charcoal drawing, very bodily, with incredible form and incredible lines – I saw that and thought there is nothing more powerful for me than the ability to communicate in that format. He trained under Ossip Zadkine and Isamu Noguchi, with an interest in energy which is of course what I am interested in. I have only just found out this detail, years later. There is this lovely quote by Zadkine “All true sculpture vibrates with life, no matter from what age or from what race of people” and I would say the same for painting – it is being immersed in it, even from a young age.
Your artwork includes objects, places and combine your love of nature and architecture. Do you have an emotional connection with each painting or are you purely capturing what you as an individual are seeing?
I am very concerned with the formal elements of painting, so I am interested in tonal relations, the colour, the composition and the exploration of that. But there is an emotional charge that drives the painting and that is a connection, but I am not deliberately setting out to paint something. Something will appear that will perhaps be a reminder of a hint of a place or an object. I’m exploring an emotional charge around something and this is an internal feeling.
Your work is bold, vibrant and bright, would you say that your time spent in the Bahamas has influenced this expression?
I had no idea that the influence of the Bahamas had become such a thing. It wasn’t until I was with Candida and she really picked up on it. I am very taken by the play of light and the light in the Bahamas is quite incredible, because they have this bleached white sand and this turquoise water – there is nowhere quite like it. I have travelled extensively and I have never seen water that clear or the light reflection as strong. I have grown up with paintings and prints of the Bahamas all around the house. I might be intrigued by the play of tone or form from just a quick photo taken on my mobile or something I have seen in a magazine. I will systematically explore that and then hey presto out comes something that sums up exactly what I have seen or felt, a feeling that reminds you of that place.
What journey are you taking people on who view your work?
An inner journey
Are there any elements of your personality reflected in your work?
I follow classical formal painting using oil paints, there is a certain technique, you have to lay it down and it takes considerable time. My work is about shape, form, colour and most importantly it is about being as honest as I possibly can. In painting it is very easy to restrict yourself to an idea of what a piece of art should look like, but the challenge is to stay ‘live’ to a painting, let go of the limitations because the reality is that you can’t control it. There is total honesty to what you are doing, it is boundless.
What are your most important artists’ tools, anything you simply couldn’t live without?
Michael Harding paint, I just love it; it’s buttery and has an incredible weight.
On average how long does it take you to complete a piece of art?
With oil paint you lay it down, then you have to wait, then lay it down again. So no matter what you do with oil paint on canvas it takes time – you can’t rush. With a work on paper, you can go one, two, three times let’s say over a week in essence, but a painting can take months. In fact, I still have paintings in progress from years ago – they are in my studio, I bring them out, look at them and then I put them away again.
So with those paintings that are incomplete, why the delay?
You have got to a place with the painting and the painting needs to guide you to the next place in some sense – it will never work if you force something onto a piece; I want to be able to make that mark, it needs to be a very clear, pure thing, not from the intellect.
Do you ever have ‘creative block’ and if you do, how do you realign yourself?
Painting is very much a dance. It is definitely something you are in rhythm with and you need to stay very present to it and recognise where you are in the process. It can be frustrating at times with where we want to be with our painting or indeed our writing and in essence that is part of it – you can make that difficult and see the negative or you can choose to find another way to be with it.
Your work is currently being exhibited within the Candida Stevens Gallery – what guided you here and do you have strong relationships with other galleries?
A number of artists (Chris McHugh, Steve McDade and Rachel Redfern) recommended Candida and felt that my art would work very well within her gallery. When I met with Candida there was definitely an instant connection – I am very intense on colour and my enquiry, which Candida very much related to. Once the connection was formed, I wanted to exhibit with Candida; there is a dedication and professionalism for what we are doing which is reflected from both sides.
Some of your work hangs on board the beautiful house boat ‘Ele’ moored in Bembridge – has the Solent and surrounding area had an influence on any of your work?
My husband would laugh at this, because my whole iPhone is filled with pictures of dark bits of wood and splurgy bits of water – it is filled with useless photos which are of course handy to me but if anyone else looked at them they would think someone had miscaptured. Definitely the paintings on Ele have been influenced by the surrounding area and the more I study them, the more obvious this is.
Charlotte’s work hanging in the gorgeous houseboat ‘Ele’, sensitively framed by Lasermark to compliment the art and its surroundings.
Lasermark frame much of your work, how did your relationship with David and his team begin?
I love Lasermark. Candida has a fantastic relationship with Lasermark who frame all of her gallery pieces for exhibitions. I met David at the gallery – he is so knowledgeable and has a fantastic eye which is something that I really value. It is so important for the frame to encourage the piece of art to take on another form and it is lovely to be in dialogue with someone who has an appreciation and dedication to what they are doing. I always look forward to visiting Lasermark and the fantastic team there. Lasermark framed all the work on the boat and art for all my exhibitions.
How do you title your work, where does this inspiration come from?
I always title my work once they are completed, because I am not working from something in terms of a set plan – there is no narrative for my work, there will be an impetus that I was exploring within the painting. ‘Agnes and the Blue Looking Glass’ is a small painting downstairs in the bedroom – it holds an element of above, below, spatial, with particular colours of the sea, blues and greens. My mother would tell stories about being in the Bahamas and she used to take tourists out on a glass bottomed boat – there was something in this painting that when I finished it, it was the blue looking glass. But the forms that were in the painting had come from drawings of Agnes Beach down in Cornwall. The enquiry on a formal element was this reflection of having seen Agnes Martin’s show – she is pure abstraction and very minimal but interested in the interior aspect. The words come a little like poetry for me, so when that came, ‘Agnes and the Blue Looking Glass’ was a perfect alliance.
Do you have a favourite piece of your own work and, if so, where is it hanging?
I have a piece of work at the moment which I really enjoy going back to which is the large painting on the house boat ‘Untitled’. The more I look at it, the more form the painting takes with further recognisable elements and from that point I greatly enjoy it – this is an area I have concentrated on deepening, just allowing that to happen rather than pure abstraction. This painting opens the doorway to intensifying the whole exploration of abstraction and figuration.
What advice would you give your younger self, in relation to the world of art and the journey you have experienced so far?
Not to be overwhelmed by the emotion, it is an intense feeling. To structure and be objective in your organisation and planning and to know that you will always show your creativity if it is a burning passion, in whatever form.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your day-to-day artists’ routine?
The biggest effect was that I was in the midst of a solo exhibition when Covid hit last year, so we had to pivot very quickly. Candida moved everything online, creating viewing rooms and a digital catalogue. The adjustments that galleries have had to make over the last 12 months is just incredible.
I as a painter get an awful lot by looking at paintings, how have they laid that down, how is that done, where has that colour come in – I’m obsessed with looking at the paint marks, from modern paintings to historical classical paintings – I would go regularly to galleries to look at paintings and I had no idea how active I was at doing this, until Covid hit. The whole thing stopped and it was a real shock and made me realise how much of my painting process involves just looking.
I am extremely lucky that my studio is within walking distance of my home.
If you were to invite three artists, past or present, to join you around the table for dinner, who would they be and why?
Amy Sillman, an amazing American artist, incredible at self-generating atmospheres of colour. Amy has great humour with her art which is refreshing within the art world. Varda Caivano who is all about gesture, her artwork is sensitive and live. Miyamoto Musashi, stunning paintings – that whole period where they write beautiful poetry such as “Perceive that which cannot be perceived by the eye” and “The world endlessly animated by the Divine”. Sweeping, grand, emotional and romantic but with the ability to paint the most delicate paintings – I just love it.