Spotlight

Spotlight artist Cecilia Charlton

Championed by gallerist Candida Stevens
The Wick - Spotlight artist Cecilia Charlton
Above  
ONES TO
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ONES TO
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The Wick - Spotlight artist Cecilia Charlton
Above  
Interview
Cecilia Charlton
06 March 2024
Interview
Cecilia Charlton
06 March 2024
Cecilia Charlton’s hand-embroidered, psychedelic works stopped us in our tracks at Collect art fair last week, appearing to vibrate and expand before our eyes. Conceived as ‘psychic portals,’ her polychromatic works are representations of the subconscious – an internal landscape filled with energy and colour.

The American-born artist, who now lives and works in London, worked in ceramics and painting before becoming hooked by textiles. The daughter of a seamstress, she uses threads to explore the effects of abstraction, geometric pattern, colour and composition.

Charlton’s champion for The Wick is the gallerist Candida Stevens, who has a keen eye for artists who use consummate craft skills to comment on the contemporary condition. It was Stevens who exhibited her work at Collect.

The artist’s psychic portals are embroidered on gilded wooden panels, which subtly catch the eye. Says Stevens: “This creates a layered effect that makes the pieces appear to dance and pulse. The gilding behind the canvas reveals itself only in certain light conditions, giving them a life of their own and catching you unawares as these shift throughout the day.”
The gallerist points to the artist’s interest in mathematics, which allows her to create carefully calculated patterns and chromatic gradients. “Her manipulation of geometric patterns and colour makes her work optically challenging and playful. It questions the hierarchy between painting and textiles. Themes of feminism, human history, time and transcendence are inherently part of the hand-sewn work, and her investigation into the history of textiles from creative, cultural, and socio-economic perspectives underpins her practice.”

Says Charlton: “I am interested in the adaptability of textile processes and their capacity to discuss a broad range of ideas – from personal memories and current events to astronomy. The inherent intimacy of textiles enables the work to carry a poignancy and connect with the viewer’s emotions.”

The artist used bargello embroidery – which creates a flame-like pattern of upright lines of stitches – to create the works at Collect. “Some of the formal elements were inspired by the abstract tantric paintings of Rajasthan, India, where minimal forms are painted to be used as tools for meditation. Using gradients of color and a density of stitches, the embroideries transform from static objects into active energy fields.”

One of Charlton’s greatest achievements to date, she says, is winning the Jerwood Art Fund Makers Open in 2021, for which she created a triptych that drew on the Greek myth of the “Three Fates” — Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos — the divinities who presided over human life. Together, the Fates represented the inescapable destiny of humanity. The installation toured from London to Cornwall and Aberdeen, with Charlton creating a site-specific installation for each exhibition.

The artist has a busy year ahead. She has created a handwoven altar frontal for Revival, a group exhibition at All Saints’ Church in Cambridge, designed by George Frederick Bodley in the 19th century, which opens next week, and she is making three large, handwoven artworks for Harewood House in Yorkshire, as part of its exhibition Colours Uncovered, opening on 22 March. Meanwhile in May, she will be expanding her knowledge of weaving with a residency at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex.

Keep a close eye on the artist over the coming months, to discover the riveting new layers that weaving adds to her work.

About the champion

The Wick - Spotlight artist Cecilia Charlton

Candida Stevens launched her eponymous gallery in 2013, following a 20-year career in business – specifically new media and luxury goods. Her rich curatorial programme spans an exhibition space in Chichester, as well as regular shows at Cromwell Place. She works with leading and emerging artists working in Britain today – often with a strong relationship to craft – including Claire Curneen, Alice Kettle and Oriel Zinaburg.

“Her manipulation of geometric patterns and colour makes her work optically challenging and playful. It questions the hierarchy between painting and textiles.”

Place of Birth

Corning, New York

Education

BFA in Painting, Hunter College, NYC, 2015
MA in Painting, Royal College of Art, London, 2018

Awards, Accolades

Jerwood Art Fund Makers Open 2021
Brookfield Properties Craft Prize (shortlisted) 2022
Artist-in-residence at West Dean College 2024 (forthcoming)

Upcoming exhibitions

“Revival”, All Saints’ Church, Cambridge, 10 – 24 March
“Colours Uncovered”, Harewood House, 22 March – 9 June

Spiritual guides, Mentors

Intuition drives most of my decisions. I engage with practices such as yoga, meditation, tarot cards, and astrology – spiritual guides of a sort.


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