London-based American artist Cecilia Charlton creates technicolour, highly-patterned textile works that reference personal and cultural histories while questioning notions of medium by bringing together traditions of painting, craft, abstraction, and folk art. At the Royal College of Art Cecilia trained in painting. However the influence of a life time, observing her mother, aunt, sisters and grand-mother working with textiles is embedded and it is working with threads that has allowed her to master her unique and original style, works that combine a bold use of colour, a confident use of design, and a heady blend of traditional with contemporary. Shape-shifting compositions appear with a visual flickering as their forms simultaneously subsume and embrace, and their colours confound and complement.
Aesthetically revolving around formal references to abstraction, the works’ titles often reveal autobiographical content. Drawing on her upbringing in Corning, New York State, within a family that valued both science and sewing, Cecilia’s artworks combine her personal history with an intuition and passion for abstraction and colour theory. These factors when blended with traditional methods, materials and motifs result in artworks that have an optically challenging, colourful and playful approach, questioning the hierarchy between paint and fibre. Her meticulous creative process requires an attentiveness, a seriousness, but the implementation of colour allows for a simultaneous feeling of levity and joy.
Hand-sewing is integral to the work. Time, as a result, becomes 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. Questions of feminism, gender roles, and social justice are inherently part of the work. What does it mean for a woman to sew today? Is it feminist? Is it anti-feminist? 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.
When you meet Cecilia you perceive an intellect and a wisdom, she is a thinker and a feeler. It is perhaps the coalition of these factors that make her work so enticing. Unable to decipher the work too readily, feeling the collision of something beautiful, while knowing this to be an insufficient term, and noticing that implicit in the work is a sense of rebellion and confidence, one is pushed back from an original assumption and challenged to re-evaluate. What do these works say and do you feel engaged? I am most certainly stimulated by these pieces and am delighted by my inability to categorize them too directly. May the deftness of these works, combined with the ancestry of the influences and the intellect of the artist delight you also.