An Interview with Charlotte Edey

Interview by Nicole Araya
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Your work has often been described as idyllic, serene and surreal and explores the nature of sanctuary. How would you recommend creating such a space in our daily lives?

I'm into mindfulness, which is really simple and calming. Taking time to focus on your immediate: your visible surroundings, any sounds you can hear, sensations from temperature to touch. It quiets your mind and bring you back to earth with more focus. Except when commuting, when to be honest I would rather not be on earth and would turn to a book. Reading forms an important sanctuary for me; it's nice to be able to live a few lives at once.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that your work speaks to finding peace and balance through a surrender of control and a recognition of the sublimeness of smallness. Would you call your work therapeutic?

I think in an individualistic age, remembering your place in the world is important. It improves your perspective and ability to empathise. Personally, I find the notion calming. I think the tapestries in particular are quite reassuring.. I've always found there to be a real warmth to textile works. The tactility, softness and association of both comfort and femininity creates an atmosphere immediately. The themes I've explored within them are directed more towards sanctuary than my print works.

Themes of isolation are often explored in your work. Do you imagine your figures to reside alone in the landscapes that they inhabit?

Yes, I imagine they're alone. I like the idea of being alone but not lonely. I think my fascination with solitude comes also from the fact that my process is solitary. I work quite erratic hours and find making work laborious, soothing and quiet, which feeds into the atmosphere of the works.

Can you discuss how the textures of colored pencil and woven fabric come into play in creating the worlds depicted in your works?

Coloured pencil creates most of the detail in my pieces. I love the texture and subtlety, it feels almost barely there. The original designs for the tapestry works are more blunt than I would usually work, with sharp blocks of colour and heavier outlines, as they are softened and blurred so much once woven.

Your work addresses the lack of representation of women of color in the media and often features women of color nude and not facing the viewer. Why are we never shown the faces of the characters in your paintings?

I like anonymity and the ability to project onto a character. I feel that most of my characters serve as the idea of one woman. They're subtly distinguished by skintone, body type and body language, but as personas they are the same. There is so much in faces that we respond to, that to remove them allows more objectivity.

How would you describe the relationship of isolation and loneliness in Ice?

Ice explores the absence of self. That barren feeling of despair, and the weightlessness that comes with feeling out of control. The petals and pearls are all in this tense state of suspension while snow falls slowly around them. It's the crucial difference between isolation and solitude.

How are the natural forces of the universe reconciled with the control of built civilization in the architectures you create?

I'm really drawn to the clean lines in modernist architecture and draw heavily from them when creating structures. I find they create a nice dialogue with the elements: light, shadow, rain and organic elements. There's a balance between nature and control.