Laurie Charles

The Caregivers

01/12/2022 – 12/03/2023

Laurie Charles is a teller of speculative stories. In these, a world comes into focus that is very different from everyday reality. These stories speculate on how the world and society could have been different. Charles tells these stories through both image and language, with a strong feminist perspective.

Her artistic practice is multifaceted: she paints, makes films, works with textiles. You could call her practice holistic – an approach in which everything is part of the same whole and thus inseparable. She brings together different disciplines, ideas, audiences and techniques into a fictional story in which in-depth research is central.

Rewriting history from a female point of view is a clear recurring theme throughout Charles’ work. For example, her film Le Chalet (2018) tells the story of four women who retreat into nature. Far away from standardised urban life, they hope to find a haven for reflection and community. Gradually, however, their utopia turns into a nightmare. Charles interweaves documentary, science fiction and horror to critically examine the story of 19th-century American utopian communes and challenge the strict separation between nature and culture.

Laurie Charles’ practice focuses heavily on caring for each other. Laurie Charles herself suffers from an autoimmune disease. Perhaps that is precisely why the body and how our society treats it are so central to her work. She makes large textile works of anatomical sections and soft sculptures in the form of organs and intestines. These sculptures are handmade and carefully hand-painted. These works each relate to the viewer’s body in their own way. For instance, there are cushions to support, curtains that conceal and reveal, and props used in performative contexts.

These two common threads (a feminist point of view and a focus on caring for each other) come together in Charles’ most recent work. This consists of reworkings of medieval engravings depicting the history of medicine. The artist broadly retains the compositions but populates the prints with women, colouring the scenes with seductive pastel colours. For Billboard Series, Laurie Charles created a painting in which she combines different engravings, scenes, and perspectives. In doing so, she recounts the utopian idea of a closed community of women, but also the historical position of women, who – especially outside the city – relied on themselves and nature to overcome illnesses. The work rewrites the story of independent women whom the patriarchy marginalises, accusing them of witchcraft. We see women providing care and healing advice, always in relation to each other – no one is depicted alone.

Laurie Charles has shown her work internationally, including at Wiels, Brussels; Terzo Fronte, Roma; Efremidis Gallery, Berlin; Grazer Kunstverein, Graz; CIAP Kunstverein, Hasselt; 1646 – project space for contemporary art, The Hague; Nanjing International Art Festival; Beursschouwburg, Brussels; and Le Commissariat, Paris.