The Wick - Artwork by Charlotte Colbert The Wick - Artwork by Charlotte Colbert
Monday Muse

Interview Charlotte Colbert: A woman of many, many talents

Charlotte Colbert
17 March 2021
Charlotte Colbert
17 March 2021
One half of London’s most inspirational artistic husband-wife teams, Charlotte Colbert’s talents span film, photography, ceramics and sculpture. Straddling the fine line between fine art and film, her films have strong philosophical undertones and often play on questions of time, space and identity, often dark and surreal with a hint of comedy. As well as showing at many major international art fairs, including Hong Kong’s Art Basel and the Istanbul Art Fair, she has written award-winning screenplays and directed her first feature starring Alice Krige, Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett and Kota Eberhardt. In 2018, she also co-founded Popcorn Group Films with the aim of telling boundary-pushing stories and creating a platform for new talent, as well as creating more opportunities for women both in front of, and behind, the camera. Impressed? You should be.

THE WICK:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

Charlotte Colbert:   I am in awe of every woman at the moment for how each of them is handling this world as best they can.

TW:   You work in many different mediums, from ceramics to photography. What is your favourite work you’ve ever created?

CC:   As soon as I finish something I try to move on. I am wrapping up editing on my feature film, She Will. It was mostly shot in the Highlands of Scotland in winter, and it was an epic journey making it. The story is set in Scotland, which is officially why we shot there, but, of course, it was because the land there is magic. It has been a crazy journey in finishing during a time when no one can be together. Luckily, we filmed it all out of lockdown but the entire process of editing and recording the score has been online.

We filmed in an abandoned manor outside Glasgow and an actor and a crew member both reported seeing the ghost of a small child. The similarity of their descriptions was uncanny and slightly unnerving.

TW:   What’s your favourite culturally curious spot or exhibition, physical or IRL?

CC:   I love the Wellcome Collection, its quirky shows like the history of dirt or its collection of 19th-century prosthetics. The Foundling Museum is amazing. I also love sitting on a bench in Postman’s Park in the city, which celebrates and commemorates unknown people who died saving someone else’s life. Anonymous voices, everyday saviours. It reminds me of George Eliot’s novel dedicated to “all the unsung Saint Teresa’s” – those who everyday perform little miracles, which are often washed away and forgotten by time. As an artist, I have created a few commemorative walls, one called Forgotten Sisters, which celebrated women who changed the world.

TW:   You live in a stunning location in Lewes. What are the top interiors items you couldn’t be without?

CC:   I love my Ginny Sims mug. It is humongous and can hold a whole litre of coffee in it. My friend Meihui’s hampers [the brand is called Made How Vita], which she started in lockdown. She is the queen of the east end and a beacon of creativity. Each hamper is curated and gorgeous. Monster Pinch by lovely Beata Heuman to keep salt, piles of plays and, most importantly, my portable Behringer speaker that booms out music to quasi nightclub levels and which I carry everywhere with me.

“I’m wrapping up my first feature as a director and looking forward to the next adventure.”

TW:   Your husband is artist Philip Colbert and you have always shared a studio in East London. How have you been working over the past year of lockdowns?

CC:   We’ve both been working with crazy hair and frazzled eyes – a tag-team of madness. The combination of worlds is often quite comical. Yesterday I came into the kitchen to find Philip, having been up since 5am, live streaming himself into Korea for the opening of his show. His face was there, life-size, on a lobster robot in the gallery. Meanwhile, I’m diving for the spoon cupboard behind him as people walk over to robot Philip to congratulate him. My favourite eavesdrop was – “I’m running out of batteries, could you carry me to the entrance?”.

TW:   What are you working on now and what excites you the most?

CC:   I’m wrapping up my first feature as a director and looking forward to the next adventure. Apart from that I’m involved in two upcoming all-women art shows. The first is curated by Philly Adams from Saatchi Gallery and Catherine Loewe, which will be available to see via a 3D scan and then IRL in an abandoned train station – it’s an amazing space. The second will be at UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles, curated by Zuzanna Ciolek. It’s amazing to be included in these brilliant collectives of women.

What I am most excited about, though, is an Aperol spritz in a patch of sun with friends.

TW:   What’s the change you most hope to see in the world over the next year?

CC:   Monopoly of power is at the root of most problems, so the changes I most hope for would be – decentralisation of power, subsidiarity, collaboration, conversation and sustainability. Listening to grassroots movements, generally, everyone knows the solution to the problem they are facing. So many amazing heroes are working to make the world safer and better, like the unbelievable and relentless work End Violence Against Women, Safety for Sisters and Southwark Black Sisters to name a few.

TW:   Anything else you would like to share with us.

CC:   I love pickles. I really do and they are so easy to make! All you need is a small cucumber, garlic, vinegar and a little bit of sugar. Close the jar, wait two weeks, then devour.

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Further Information
The Wick - Bettina Korek, Serpentine Chief Executive
Photographed by Rosie Matheson, September 2020 in the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London.
Images 20, 23, 25 include a bench which is part of a permanent commission by the Scottish poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Installed in 1998, the work comprises eight benches, a tree-plaque, and a large, complex inscription at the Gallery’s entrance.
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