Charlotte Edey (1992, London) is a multimedia artist who works across print, drawing, tapestry, textile and embroidery. Female figures and pastel dream-like suggestions lead us in a surreal space and a crystallised time. Myth and mysticism, femininity and symbolism are the main topics of Edey’s artistic practice. Her works explore the intersection between identity and spiritual, with a focus on the experience of womxn of colour.
Altar, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
Twice, tapestry, 2019.
The Art world has been a male world for years. Today, finally, we can see feminist art imposing itself in a new place, even if the most of the time is still out of the system. Do you think Instagram and the other social media played a role in women’s access and recognition in art? How?
I agree that it’s a question of access. I think that while Instagram has created it’s own divisions and hierarchies, it initially operated outside of traditional power structures in that it didn’t require a professional network, money, proximity to a cultural capital or a formal education to build a platform or following. This provides a specific agency to female artists, curators, art writers, artists of colour, to all underrepresented groups. I think this digital/DIY influence has translated offline in a way that is really refreshing and exciting; the trajectory of women like Kimberley Drew & Katy Hessel has already had real-world impact. Whether Instagram will be effective in addressing the gender imbalance in the art world long term I’m less sure of, but I definitely think it’s furthered the conversation.
Call, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
Women’s bodies are a political battleground, again. Why is it important for you to explore the way female bodies are portrayed? Why are your women faceless?
I actually see the female figure in my work as a plural character; versions of the same. They are differentiated by changes in hair texture, skin-tone, shape and body language, but I see them as the same character. They are always facing away, experiencing the scenes, rather than engaging with the audience. I think it maintains their anonymity and plurality. There is so much to read in a face, I think it can be quite distracting.
Recently, I’ve been interested in exploring anthropomorphic landscapes that I feel are figurative; allowing the idea of femininity to shape the universe rather than just inhabit it.
Dive, monochrome pencil triptych, 2019.
Dust, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision”, Salvador Dalí. What role do magic and mysticism play in the development of your artistic practice?
Spirituality has gradually shaped my way of storytelling. As I’ve been developing my work around the intersections of identity, so much of what I was trying to articulate I realised was spiritual! It’s so central to the human experience, and provides a connection that is counter to the various divisions that create the sum of an identity.
A lot of my work is concerned with the politics of space, centred on the experience of womxn of colour: who can occupy it, and the spatial structuring we navigate. The present limitations of this lend themselves to seeking the sublime. I find imagining a parallel existence quietly powerful. It offers the opportunity to transcend our reality while creating a space to investigate who and where we are. It is optimistic; it looks forward to imagine and realise an alternate reality.
How do you want your work to affect your audience?
I think the ability to move anyone is pretty magic.
Echo, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
Three Tears, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
Tapestry, embroidery, illustration, your artistic practice include different mediums. How do you choose your art form? Do you choose the medium, or does the medium choose you?
The base of my practice has always been drawing, and I see most of my material exploration as an extension of this practice. The tapestries are pencil drawings translated via digital jacquard loom and the satin-stitch embroidery follows a similar pattern to line drawing. Working in textile feels most seamless for me and I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of the medium.
Quiet, tapestry, 2018.
Do you think art is always the result of a political consideration or, aside from the message, can art simply be an aesthetic expression?
I think intention is important but that doesn’t have to be explicitly or solely political.
Garden, hand-embroidered tapestry, 2019.
Freshwater, hand-embroidered tapestry miniature, 2019.
Photo courtesy of Charlotte Edey.
WRITTEN BY MICAELA FLENDA