What has inspired this expat artist living in Singapore? With its cloud-puncturing skyscrapers, towering apartment blocks and restaurants as high as the 70th floor, artist CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH calls Singapore “a city in the clouds”. It’s this same characteristic that has inspired her acclaimed “sky series” of paintings.
What do you love most about being an artist?
I began my career as a scenic artist, creating huge scale backcloths for theatre shows, operas and events. By working commercially for so many years, I learnt my craft as a painter without space for my own ego. It was exciting and exhilarating work and I totally loved it. My life changed dramatically when I became a mother; my sense of self and priorities shifted. This, coupled with an unexpected move to Asia, paved the way for a reinvention. After years of painting to a brief, I was suddenly totally free to explore my own creativity and expression – terrifying and liberating at the same time!
What inspired you to paint the sky?
In the UK, my husband and I lived on a boat, surrounded by gently lapping water. Suddenly, when we moved to Asia, I was taken out of the water and thrust into apartment-living in the sky. My sky series began on a rainy day in Singapore. Faced with this incredible freedom to create whatever I chose, I looked out of my window and was so struck by the dramatic cloud structures that the incredible tropical climate could produce. I began experimenting and immediately found a groove.
What is your artistic process?
I like to begin with a reference for structure, composition and light and shade, so I often use an image of the clouds that I’ve either photographed or had sent to me. Colour, for me, is a personal journey, so I work from a monochrome image to allow my own interpretation of colour to evolve.
Most of my paintings are a meditation on another stimulus coupled with a particular view of the sky. It could be a simple idea, a piece of music, or a poem or folktale. I’ll use my emotional response to this idea to layer the piece with another dimension of emotion.
What does a standard day look like?
I always light a candle and repeat a few affirmations before I begin painting. I try to remind myself to enjoy what I do and stay true to my own voice. It’s easy to be distracted by the work others are doing or the idea of what an audience might want. I’ve learnt to trust myself and know that if I create pieces with heart, soul and integrity, that will always shine through.
How do you explore colour in your artwork?
I have an emotional response to colour and I’m not afraid to be bold and messy with my choices. I’ve spent years learning how to understand colour in a technical sense, to know the colour wheel, and mix colour matches by eye. I love the magic and alchemy in colour layering. I mix all the colours I use, and never use anything straight out of the tube. There’s such a world of possibilities with colours – it’s like the most delicious kind of playtime!
What’s your favourite artwork from your collection?
During times of difficulty, I have always fallen back on a three-word mantra my mother always repeated: “Float and accept”. These words have been uttered to me so many times that I actually have them tattooed on my painting arm. So I created a painting to honour this mantra. It had the fragile strength and powerful serenity that my mother embodies and was both delicate and bold. It was bought by a couple for their first home.
Why do you think your status as an artist escalated the way it did?
I believe there is an increasing need for mindful contemplation and quiet in this frantic modern world. I think my paintings tap into the need to stop and take a breath. I’ll often receive feedback from clients that my work has bought a sense of calm into their homes.
What’s coming up for you as an artist?
I’m continuing to grow and develop the sky series. I’ll be working towards a solo exhibition in Singapore in early 2021, with another in the UK later in the year.
How can we view your original work?
In Singapore, I’m represented by REDSEA Gallery in Dempsey Hill. It’s a beautiful gallery; I remember gazing longingly through the windows, imagining how wonderful it would be to see my work on its walls!
This article first appeared in the October 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!