Charlie Calder-Potts is a British artist and former Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibitor. In the run-up to the 2016 prize we spoke to Charlie about her practice and the various commissions she has undertaken in the Middle East.

Charlie Calder-Potts is fascinated by the world. She delves into history and thoroughly researches what she sees to create large mixed media depictions of the places she visits. Her travels in the Middle East have led to captivating commissions that portray the displacement of people and the destruction of ancient sites. Her frequent visits to her sister in Lebanon have exposed her to historical ruins, which she has played games with her nephews amongst. This has evoked an intimate link between the history of the places she visits and the artwork she creates.

Charlie Calder-Potts, From moment then to moment

Charlie Calder-Potts, From moment then to moment

Charlie views the process of commissioning as a way of introducing her to different places, ideas and histories: ‘It’s a really important process, and one that needs to be sustained’. Her exhibition in Dubai led to a commission in Iraq, where she was hosted by a family who guided her to new ideas by taking her to historical sites such as the 4000 year old holy village of Lalish. There she was introduced to the Yezidi refugees, a group severely persecuted by ISIS, who have become a focus of Charlie’s Iraq series.

Charlie Calder-Potts, Whatever is Written

Charlie maintains that, ‘without the clients hosting me and showing me their world, I wouldn’t have embarked on this series of work. Their commission was hugely influential for me, and it has opened up a whole range of opportunities.’ The process of commissioning remains to be a two-way process that has enabled Charlie to discover new places, whilst ensuring that the client plays an integral part in the work.

Charlie’s work represents the interconnected nature of the world. She explores countries in the Middle East and merges them with the West to deconstruct perceptions fuelled by media that suggest that the Middle East is solely dangerous. Charlie draws upon the influence of Persian manuscripts on much of Western history and affirms that, ‘Our history is all connected, we have all influenced each other’.  

Charlie Calder-Potts, When Shadows Pass

Despite our increase in immediate access to news and information about other countries, Charlie sees an increasing disconnect between cultures, something that she wishes to break down. This desire to forge connections between seemingly disparate people and places has led her to Afghanistan, where she was the official war artist for the British Army. During her time in the Helmand province she used scrap metal from tanks upon which she painted civilians and the military.

Charlie is also excited by all the places within the UK that she is yet to discover, and she views commissioning as a crucial process that opens up ideas, ‘you can only read so many books or stumble across things, but someone can always bring a project to you’. She wishes for people to continue sharing their special places with her, whether it be a local medieval church or crumbling ruins, as an opportunity for her to scratch into the layers of history and uncover past stories.

Charlie Calder-Potts, The Dreadless Angel

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Art Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.


By Sophia Siddiqui

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