Charlotte Edey is a London-based multimedia artist whose work draws on influences from surrealism and M.C. Escher’s impossible architecture. I was drawn to her work, firstly because I could recognise these influences, but more because of the way Edey has interpreted them – the sense of femininity within these seemingly impossible structures and landscapes gives this feeling of imbalance. For me, her work represents creates a lot of questions about modern life: architecture and lifestyle, connection and femininity.
Chapter Two, one of Edey’s more recent prints demonstrates this, I believe. The soft shade of pink and the female figure obviously give a sense of femininity, and there is a sense of calm I suppose. Which is somewhat strange given the fact that the figure is falling…so perhaps as an audience we are meant to feel calm, just observing bystanders to this event. If we juxtapose the sense of calm against the rather convoluted structure surrounding her, the image becomes confused. We don’t know where she will land, and we struggle to navigate this world ourselves, so how is she meant to navigate. I’ve heard of the crisis of masculinity…but is there a problem with femininity in the post-modern era? I won’t get into questions of gender politics here because there’s a lot that could be said with regards to fluidity of gender and non binary. But I can’t help but think that the falling woman in Chapter Two is perhaps pointing to this. Or maybe just how we navigate modern life in general…
The falling figure is also rather reminiscent of the fall of Icarus, and this print really reminds me of the painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, in which we are shown this rather beautiful agricultural scene, and all is calm. However in the background, almost unnoticed, we can see the legs of Icarus as he plunges to his death…and life goes on regardless. Edey conveys this feeling too I think, she is falling, but all is calm.
I think it’s very significant that Edey only uses female figures, because this is a distinctly female experience she is trying to convey. High Tide is another interesting print by Edey. I think it perhaps opens a dialogue about the female experience in relation to the rest of the world, the roaring seas and the sense of isolation, but again, a kind of distortion – this figure seemingly cannot go anywhere, she’s contained within this structure that goes nowhere. There’s something distinctly lonely about High Tide, but also not a negative experience. Edey is able to evoke this sense of calm and tranquility, despite the circumstances.
In contrast, Shell is a work that I think conveys something more recognisable in the art historical sense. The female figure here seems more vulnerable, her body is open to us and her apparent modesty only goes to further frame her form. Again, there is a sense of softness to the landscape, but also barrenness. She gazes back, towards a second female form, laying on the ground. The sense of separation between the two figures is heightened both by the difference in tone of the two figures, but also the separation between the areas of landscape, almost like a collage or some type of composite image. The transparency of the first figure is also interesting, as though she has no effect on her surroundings. Here I think it may be good to talk about connectivity. Despite the two figures being so close, they’re distinctly separate…maybe they can’t relate to one another anymore. The first figure gazes back as if filled with nostalgia for an interaction that can’t happen. With all our social media and phones…are we losing the ability to connect to others face to face? I don’t know..just an idea.
I think Edey’s work also has a lot to say about the way we live and modernist architecture. Let’s face it, we spend more time indoors than we ever have before. Are we isolating ourselves within giant brick and concrete structures? Does modern architecture just build a road to lonely people in solitary apartments? As I’ve said, Edey depicts isolation in this strangely beautiful way, which is hard to see as anything other than quite appealing.
However with the help modern tech, we’re all connected to one another 24/7…so maybe Edey’s work is about the beauty of being alone (especially with regards to Bathe and High Tide)- are we too connected? Maybe solitude should be praised and sought after? I bounce back and forth between these two ideas when considering Edey’s work…it’s hard not to see the isolation of these figures as melancholy, but also there is beauty to be found there, I think.
What do you think of Edey’s work?
Featured Image – Bathe, giclée print, Charlotte Edey
All images courtesy of https://www.charlotteedey.com/
Or have a look at her instagram page @edey_
Written by Emily Stokes