London based American artist Cecilia Charlton (b. 1985) received a BFA Painting in 2015 from Hunter College in NYC, and an MA Painting from the Royal College of Art, London in 2018. Currently working in London on a 5 year scholarship she is increasingly involved with UK based opportunities. She was an awardee of the 2021 Jerwood Art Fund Makers Open. She is currently working on commissions and residencies with VitalArts for the NHS, Robert Young Antiques and SPACE Ilford.
Charlton creates technicolour, highly patterned textile works that reference the formal histories of colour theory and abstraction, while questioning notions of medium by bringing together traditions of painting and craft. Hand-sewing is integral to the work. Time, as a result, is central to the work because of the time-consuming nature of needlecraft; the works themselves indirectly evoke a sense of timelessness and ephemera – they seem at once preserved and yet contemporary.
Themes of feminism, gender roles, and social justice are inherently part of the work, and her investigation into the history of textiles from creative, cultural, technical, and socio-economic perspectives underpins Charlton's studio practice. Spanning the mediums of textiles, installation, and art in the social sphere, the work results in conversation tending towards both the personal and the political.
The works’ titles often reveal autobiographical content. Drawing on her upbringing in Corning, New York State within a needlecraft-based family, her personal and social history, as explored through textiles, combines the histories of three generations.
Influenced by Renaissance patterns found in Italian architecture, and the formal values of colour theory, the artworks have an optically challenging, colourful and playful approach, and question the hierarchy between paint and textile. Charlton’s meticulous creative process requires an attentiveness, a seriousness, while the implementation of colour allows for a simultaneous feeling of levity and joy.
Implicit in the work is a sense of rebellion and confidence, one is pushed back from an original assumption and challenged to re-evaluate. There is a deftness to the work, which combines with the ancestry of the influences, the intellect of the artist and the skill of the maker.
She has exhibited in the UK and internationally; her recent exhibitions include: Aurora with Candida Stevens Gallery, 2020; Parade, curated by Kris Day, Broadway Gallery, UK, 2019; Tender Touches, curated by Ines Neto dos Santos and Huma Kabakci of Open Space Contemporary, AMP Gallery, London, 2019; Grid :: Preset, Blyth Gallery, London, 2019; Lifeline as Medium, 532 Gallery, NYC, 2018; SURGE: The Eastwing Biennial, Courtauld Institute, London, 2018; FAKERS, Thamesside Gallery, London, 2018; Rogue Objects, curated by spaceship, University College London, London, 2018. Some awards include the Fulbright UK Scholarship in 2015 (shortlisted), and the Ellen Battel Stockel Fellowship as part of the Yale University Norfolk Residency in 2014.
In 2021 Cecilia worked with SPACE Gallery Ilford to produce Mammoth Stitch, an exhibition consisting of large-scale quilted works produced by local residents of Redbridge. Through participatory workshops, Cecilia was able to use textiles as a means of encouraging social connections and a sense of community, exploring Ilford’s rich history from the pre-historic mammoth skull discovered in 1864 to the culturally diverse neighbourhood that is today. She introduced participants to a range of techniques such as bargello needlepoint, crewel embroidery, cross-stitch embroidery and different fabric dyeing methods. The resulting works serve as a powerful reminder of how textiles continue to offer an important means of social connection in today’s society. As Cecilia notes, “Historically, sewing circles have existed for people to share skills, gossip, personal experiences or just share a laugh. It’s been a place where people can meet and bond around the activity of sewing.”