Earlier this month New Zealand Portrait Gallery volunteer Gillian Clark Kirkcaldie spoke with artist Charotte Giblin about her work in the Adam Portraiture Award 2016.
Charlotte Giblin comes from an eclectic background. She studied in the UK where she considered becoming a sculptor, eventually graduating with a degree in pottery. For the next 10 years she established and ran a very successful pottery business. She worked in the administrative and marketing side of her business whilst simultaneously producing whimsical domestic pottery. This background would provide Charlotte with a great knowledge of the business side of art and give her the experience and confidence to promote her own work.
In 2009 Charlotte immigrated to New Zealand with her New Zealand partner. She continued to work in the administrative and curatorial side of the art world. She became director of the Wallace Gallery in Morrisville where she developed a successful programme of exhibitions and events. During this time she also developed a close relationship with the Wallace Arts Trust.
From the time of her arrival in New Zealand Charlotte and her partner made frequent visits to Whangamata, where his family had a house. This was Charlotte’s introduction to New Zealand’s “far north”. In 2012 they moved north to Whitianga where Charlotte took on the role of part time administrator of the Mercury Bay Escape.
It was in 2012 that Charlotte began her landscape paintings. These would become the Big Skies Series, a collection of 120 paintings. Copies of these paintings would become Charlotte’s book Wandering Under Big Skies, the Coromandel Peninsula Through the Eyes of an Artist, launched this year.
The landscapes evolved as Charlotte wandered the Coromandel Peninsula; they are light hearted and a little whimsical. In each landscape the viewer sees a solitary figure, always in the background and never face forward. It seems that this figure is also looking out into this gorgeous landscape.
This figure is Charlotte in her blue shorts and yellow t-shirt and yes, she is inviting you, the viewer to come along with her as she meanders through our beautiful countryside.
In 2014 Charlotte stepped down from her post at Mercury Bay Art Escape to become a full time artist. The quantum leap was accomplished. Charlotte emerged as a full time artist - “coming out with gusto”. She launched her a series of five self-portraits which became the Emerging Series.
This was the first time Charlotte had painted herself in 20 years.
The impetus for this series of paintings was Charlotte’s first self portrait painted at age 18. Here the figure is naked and seated upon a tiny green stool. This is not an easy image for the viewer, the figure fills the canvas, she is foreshortened and totally confined within the space. She is looking out, yet cannot break free of the confines of her space. The space both defines and confines her.
How very different is Charlotte’s next self-portrait; Emerging in Full Colour, 2015.
Here the figure is immediate and alive, you, the viewer cannot escape her as full frontal she bursts out of the confines of not simply the picture, but also the frame. Her cheeks are rosy, her legs a little grubby, her toe nails manicured red. Is she angry? Defiant? Or just determined to escape?
This is a powerful image intended to both challenge and empower the viewer.
The inspiration for this series came about as Charlotte herself, emerged as a full time artist and later, as she looked at other portraits she noticed how few portrayed an image that might challenge the viewer.
Charlotte wished to speak to the needs of women and to quote her “What happens when a strong woman decides she no longer wishes to play the role “her society” has dictated for her”. This is a concept she wished to explore through her visual images.
Here Charlotte is in her familiar blue shorts and yellow t-shirt bursting out of the canvas, leaping out of the frame. There is no distracting background, she is looking straight to the viewer as she explodes onto the scene.
For Charlotte there was a sense of joy when painting this image; however, creating the pose in itself became quite a challenge as it proved rather “difficult to paint one’s image whilst trying to balance in a doorway” (Charlotte’s words). To create this pose and the expression Charlotte used photography and mirrors. The experience proved to be quite cathartic in itself.
A powerful self-portrait emerged. Charlotte entered Emerging in Full Colour into the Adam Portraiture Award 2016 where it became one of the 59 finalists.
- Gillian Clark Kirkcaldie