A Collaborative Work by Cecilia Charlton
16th August - 4th September 2021
Window Installation & Workshop
After spending a year indoors, Cecilia began to think about domestic space. When she visited the Robert Young Antiques Gallery, the object that spoke to her was a paint decorated Marriage Cupboard– the geometry of the structure and the floral motif hand-painted onto the surface called to her on an aesthetic and intuitive level. It reminded her of Charleston House, where the Bloomsbury Group took up residence for many decades. The surface embellishments that they created throughout the home surprise and delight and make one curious about so many aspects of human existence. What drives the need to embellish? Is it the direct interplay between the structure of the surface and the painted design that results in such a strong sense of intimacy?
There is also a sense of rebellion to decorating a surface – a mark indicating that ‘I am here!’ ‘I was here!’ ‘I will be here!’.
Through speaking with Robert, Cecilia discovered that the painted Marriage Cupboard would have been created as a wedding gift, and then filled with textiles. In the 1800s, textiles such as bedlinens or tablecloths were a prized possession in the household, and typically created by the bride’s family. As she continued to look through the RYA collection, Cecilia discovered that many of the hand painted objects had two things in common: they were created to celebrate marriage or courtship, and they had a function related to textiles. So why, in these objects that spoke of love and intimacy, and served a functional purpose, did the situation seem to call for an embellished surface?
What is the link between love, textiles, and painted expression?
With this installation Cecilia does not aim to answer this question, merely to mull it over. Within textiles is the history of our survival; it is a material that we are literally born into and could not survive without. But it is also a history of our ingenuity, our boundless creativity. As Virginia Postrel says in her book The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World, “[The heritage of textiles] does not belong to a single nation, race, or culture, or to a single time or place. The story of textiles is not a male or female story, not a European, African, Asian, or American story.
It is all of these, cumulative and shared – a human story, a tapestry woven from countless brilliant threads”.
Cecilia Charlton is a London-based American artist. She received a BFA Painting in 2015 from Hunter College in NYC, graduating summa cum laude, and an MA Painting from the Royal College of Art in 2018.
She creates technicolour, highly-patterned textile works that question notions of medium by bringing together traditions of painting, craft, abstraction, and folk art. 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, such as issues of mortality, drug use, sexuality, family relationships, and mental health.