Cecilia Charlton (b. 1985) is a London-based American artist. Coming from a family background in sewing and needlecraft, she graduated from painting courses at Hunter College (BFA, 2015, NYC) and the Royal College of Art (MA, 2018, London). Her work blends these two art forms to result in what have been referred to as “needle-paintings” – artworks which have an optically challenging, colourful and playful approach to abstraction which draws on the personal and cultural histories of both needlecraft and abstract art. She has exhibited in the UK and internationally; her recent exhibitions include: Parade, Broadway Gallery, UK, 2019; Tender Touches, 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, 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.
Personal and social history, as explored through textiles, is the main area of exploration in my recent work. Traditional materials and techniques provide focus on my creative life as a textile artist, while patterns and abstraction simultaneously place the works in a larger cultural conversation around something more cerebral, ephemeral. Drawing on my upbringing within a needlecraft-based family, I create what have been referred to as “needle-paintings” -- largely abstract embroideries on a variety of substrates that speak to concepts of materiality, perception, and time.
Hand-sewing is integral to the work that I create. Time, as a result, becomes central to the works 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. One’s sense of time, and its ability to be manipulated, is an effect which I pursue as a consequence of my creative process as well as the use of a traditional medium.
Questions of feminism and gender roles are inherently part of my artworks. What does it mean for a woman to sew today? Is it feminist? Is it anti-feminist? And yet I can't help sewing -- it is connected to my life, essential to my DNA. My work ideally results in conversation tending towards both the personal as well as the political.