Charlotte Weston is a London-based Visual Artist whose DIY Sculptures flip an ancient art-form on its head. Unlike the typical robust Museum sculpture, Charlotte’s pieces can be deconstructed, remodelled and reused. Symbolic of the fact that life is never stable, her work is the eclectic semblance of nostalgic clutter and bizarre memorabilia.
Her temporary sculptures exist only through documentation. Rejecting the ‘slick catalogue images of soulless sculptures,’ Charlotte uses 35mm film to create gritty, bold and vibrant images. For her, the colour, shape and purpose of an object can create a story. As she adds these objects together to form a sculpture, she claims a character is built.
‘They’re like Frankenstein’s Monster before he's alive.’
This character, like a person, has many levels; on the surface, it may seem garish and cheery, but underneath there is doubt and instability. Charlotte Weston’s sculptures challenge you to look deeper and search harder.
Chroma talks to Charlotte Weston about Immortality, Stereotypes and Digging Beneath the Surface
You make sculptures that after construction can be deconstructed, remodelled and reused. Are they symbolic of the human self- how we, as individuals, evolve and grow?
Yes, I think they are symbolic of this, it's part of the natural cycle to grow, evolve and change. Everything is forever changing. Desire and the attraction of objects or people are in a constant state of flux. Something that is fixed and stable doesn't stimulate me, as I feel there is no room for change. I am not the same person I was yesterday, and neither is my work.
When researching your work, I was reminded of a quote by Marinetti, ‘Museums: cemeteries.’ Humankind has always been obsessed with the creation of something physical to permanently replace themselves after they die. Does your work try to distance itself from this idea?
Humankind, especially millennials have this obsession with making a mark on the world. To be remembered for something exceptional or to make an impact. I feel the same can be said about some art; an exceptional artist is immortalised by their work. I embrace the mundane and jazz it up a little bit. I also embrace the inherently narcissistic nature of being an artist - I protest what I actually am. So yes I try to distance myself from this idea, but of course, I would like to replace myself with my belongings when I die. I am kind of immortalised by what I possess.
My work sits somewhere between self-loathing and narcissistic, and I use that as a positive reflection of what I do. I've been brought up within a generation that is made to believe that they can change the world and when you can’t- along comes the anxiety and panic of failure. We are paralysed by our talent.
Does the idea of mortality frighten you?
Completely, I don't like the idea of the future. I can hardly handle the now. Forever is a painful word. Things that may or may not happen feel like carrying a 100000 kg backpack on a hike into the unknown.
You shoot in film, one of the only ways you choose to document your work. This adds another aspect of risk to your work- your film may not come out as planned and thus your sculpture could be lost forever. Why do you choose film over digital?
Yes many times I have lost film, or it has turned out black/blurred/bad, but I feel like this adds to the process. I like having only those 24/36 frames; I am more aware of what goes into a single image because I don't want to waste the film. Honestly, the main reason for it is the teenage angst burning inside of me - I cannot afford a fancy camera, and I do not wish to have slick catalogue images of soulless sculptures. I photograph my work as if each sculpture was a character or creature with life.
You've commented that your work explores gender issues, and these themes can be decoded from your work. I can see this particularly within the series ‘The Burnage Housewife’- where I can spot a wine glass, symbolic of the stereotype ‘alcoholic housewife.’ Would you be able to unpack a few of these pieces further?
I think I am showing the alcoholic housewife in myself. My partner in marriage is my dreams/lifestyle and my three children: hope, blame and anxiety; All sedated by the evening de-stressing drink.
This work also brings up notions of inter-women rivalry. You shouldn't have to choose between being a mother or having a career nor should you be looked down on for choosing either. Worse yet, judging others when you can do both. Women are fighting for equality, but we still need to be sensitive to one another.
Would you be able to tell us a little more about your creative process? What draws you to certain artefacts? Do you have the idea before the objects, or do the objects lead to the idea?
I am an over-thinker, my mind is noisy with thoughts, and it's hard to single out specific things. But I do get attracted to objects or words as I would a person. It is not one single attractive feature; it's also the connotations that it brings i.e. The colour of an object can bring up certain emotions and as does the texture or even the purpose (or lack of). Take a red plastic clown’s nose. Red is symbolic of womanhood/sexuality/empowerment, but it is also symbolic of humiliation/guilt/rage. Plastic is cheap/shit/undesirable/not long lasting. The nose is a part of the body that brings this object to life. The object is a character in itself. From that object, new ideas are built. My sculptures are like the accumulation of fragments to form a character - Frankenstein’s Monster before he's alive.
Your work is playful but at times unsettling, as if subtly revealing a darkish undercurrent. What mood are your pieces aiming for? What do you want the viewer to take from your work?
I want the work to be initially striking, fun, tacky and bright. Things/people/objects give the illusion of joy/success/happiness, but under the surface, there is doubt and instability. Things are not necessarily as they seem.
What are your thoughts on ‘growing up’? Do these thoughts tie into your work?
It seems to me that growing up is about being serious, mature and it requires stability across many levels. It's a daunting part, transitioning from child to adult. What does the future have to offer for me and where do I fit into it? If you don't achieve success or stability, it's hard to shake off the feeling that you are a childish daydreamer.
Finally, red is a recurrent colour within your work, what is it that draws you to it?
Red is alive, and so are we (I think)!
words: Emma Phillips