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Charlotte Edey, FKA twigs’ Practice
From FKA twigs’ PracticeCharlotte Edey

Charlotte Edey is the FKA twigs-approved artist creating sublime tapestries

The artist speaks to us about the intersection of unseen worlds and female identity

When British artist Charlotte Edey was commissioned to illustrate FKA twigs’ Practice; a film that documented the year spent perfecting pole dancing for her “Cellophane” video, the pairing was seamless. Both born-and-raised Londoners, Edey and twigs possess the gift of moving between imagined and physical worlds with ease. Discovered by the auteur and her team on Instagram – and probably by most of her avid followers – she’s also worked with Miu Miu and gal-dem. 

So, with a body of work spanning hand-embroidery, illustration, woven tapestry, and silk georgettes, you’d be pressed to find a debut solo exhibition (Echolocation launching tomorrow at London’s Public Gallery) more varied in medium than British artist Charlotte Edey’s. Using gendered landscapes inhabited by floating shells, hourglass-figured skylines, and women bathing in ethereal pools, her work explores the feminine experience and how it informs the different facets of identity.

The inclusion of women of colour in her illustrative fantasy has also garnered attention from the similarly ethereal SZA, but the landscapes allude to more than just an exploration of the physical body. As Edey explains, “Echolocation describes using echoes to understand your environment, which could be an exploration of the inner world or its connection to the universal.”

We met with Edey in her North London studio to find out more.

“A lot of my work is concerned with reconciling division: between internal and external and spiritual and artificial” – Charlotte Edey

Where or who do you take your influences from?

Charlotte Edey: I’m interested in spirituality, symbolism and myth. I read a lot and create altars of objects I’m drawn to; informal/sentimental still-life arrangements that help me to direct my work. I always come back to landscapes, whether imagined or drawn from life. I find landscapes really grounding, even when surreal or abstracted, and offers perspective.

Instagram brings instant exposure of your art to thousands of people. What role has Instagram taken in your career, and do you think it holds a place in the art world?

Charlotte Edey: I think it is both useful and democratising as a digital portfolio. It allows artists to find their audience outside of the traditional routes, which diversifies the art world. There are obvious limitations, though. I feel like the nature of Instagram lends itself better to graphic pieces, whereas much of the embroidery, tapestry and silk works I have been working with really need to be seen in person.

Let’s talk more about your embroidery and tapestry work. They’re mediums you’ve referred to as ‘gendered’ in the past; can you tell us more about why this is?

Charlotte Edey: When I call that kind of thing ‘gendered’, it’s my acknowledgement of how, historically, textile work was widely disregarded as craft, due to the domestic and feminine connotations of embroidery and looming. This only changed after the Arts and Craft and Suffrage movements in the past few centuries. The artistic legacy of tapestry and embroidery is, for me, interwoven with the perceived value of female labour – both in domestic and professional spheres.

What does the concept of an inner world mean to you?

Charlotte Edey: I interpret it as an idea that encompasses all the intersections of identity and is the foundation of your experience. I think a lot of my work is concerned with reconciling division: between internal and external and spiritual and artificial. The inner world ties into this play of opposites! Much of the fabric of the worlds in Echolocation is shaped and informed by the idea of femininity. Anthropomorphic landscapes and atmospheres punctuated by curls speak to becoming the environment, rather than existing within it. It’s more of a suggestion of the feminine than an obvious physical portrayal.

A recurring symbol in your work is your hair, is there a conscious reason that you’ve chosen to include it?

Charlotte Edey: I think, for me, there was a huge process of trying to learn how to love it. I was putting [textured] hair like mine into situations where you wouldn’t usually see mixed race girls. There’s obviously such an amazing heritage of female artists of colour that have come before me; but I wanted to see more women of colour in illustrative or fantasy scenes. As my work has developed and I’ve created different series, there’s now more of a range of skin tones and hair textures. Only doing mixed race natural hair isn’t particularly inclusive. The women in my scenes are all the same character; just versions of.

What work can we expect to see on the opening night of your first solo exhibition; Echolocation?

Charlotte Edey: A lot of pieces will be together for the first time that reveal my process. There’s a triptych in a monochrome pencil that’s going to be super informative alongside my looming. You’ll see original drawings of the tapestries alongside the final piece, so you can see how the practise informs the art and vice versa. You’ll get to see the start, middle and the end of this journey all on one wall. I’ll actually be showing pieces that are mostly new-- pretty much none of what you’ll see has ever been exhibited before. 

The Private View of Echolocation will be on 4th September 6.30-9.00pm at PUBLIC Gallery. Exhibition continues 5th September - 28 September