It’s hard to imagine a life before, or after, lockdown’s limitations. I met with Charlie Perry on a sunny Friday afternoon – and when I say met, of course this was via video call, as we edge even closer to functioning solely as digital avatars of our former physical selves. A fellow Northerner, the first thing that strikes me about Charlie is her refreshing candour. We are online to talk mostly about her painting Thank You, with 100% of profits being donated to an NHS Covid-19 relief charity, as well as her work in dispelling myths of skincare products with her podcast Birthday Skin.
|Thank You, Charlie Perry, 2020.|
I express my concern that it’s become near impossible to talk about anything other than the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in. “You don’t want to seem as though you’re not acknowledging what’s happening but also, are people bored of hearing about it?” she wonders.
There’s no denying that this is a bleak moment for Britain. We have had to bear witness to our government’s response to a real global crisis whom, unfortunately, have only validated the doubt and distrust many of its citizens have. It’s no wonder that we have seen a more prominent call-to-arms spirit amongst the public. In the wake of sponsored marathons having been called off this year, it certainly has been encouraging to see so many screenshots of five kilometre circuits followed by donation confirmations and splayed hands, each digit passing the baton to five more obliged nominees (as not a keen athlete, I am at once relieved and offended to have not received this particular challenge yet).
Although it is frustrating that the responsibility of funding our essential, and supposedly government funded, health service appears to have been left to the people, many creatives like Charlie have taken a pro-active approach to using social media and fundraising projects to work towards a positive solution. Instagram, and the likes, finally seem to have broken away from being dismissed as juvenile, often toxic, black holes of time to be wasted and have instead become integral to observing the world we live in and not to mention, a savvy tool used to aid growth and connection between communities.
Charlie clearly is able to navigate her way through all of this; with Thank You, a direct message exchange lead to a post from a popular influencer, delivering on the task of just that and influencing donations of an impressive £600 in one day. She wishes for the recipients that “this piece of art will serve as a bright and colourful reminder of a time that is actually quite dark. I hope that people look at it on their wall and are reminded of their positive contribution.”
|Balcony, Charlie Perry, 2020.|
Charlie is part of a new school of media, where kicking the door down on exclusivity and societal myths is at the forefront of the agenda. It’s a modern challenge; we find ourselves in a time where questioning the capitalist lifestyle that we’ve been blindly subscribed to appears to be receiving a backlash. People like Charlie, who on the surface operate well within this world, could be the catalyst for diffusing it from the inside out. “Normally, my day would be 9-5 producing podcasts but at the minute, the work has completely dried up since we aren’t able to meet people to record.”
“I’ve always found that art was quite an exclusive thing to get involved in and since I’m so far removed from feeling like a part of that culture, I’m really just creating work for myself.”
Charlie has her own independent podcast project, Birthday Skin, hosted by herself and best friend Amy Wall which she describes as aiming to “dispel any marketing fake news within the skincare community. We try to approach our episodes from more of a scientific background so to be able to say, ‘we’ve done the research and this is what we’ve found.’ We’re not dermatologists or aestheticians, and I’m sure we’ve even made some mistakes, but we’re just doing a bit more research than you might do even if you had a question about something.”
The show has aired 80 episodes since August 2018 and has a healthy audience of people looking for clarity. The episodes feature a number of guests from the skincare community and cover topics ranging from the way boozing affects your skin, whether popular brands live up to the hype to discussing body-positivity issues such as cellulite. Going back to the benefit of meaningful social media connections, Charlie also credits Instagram for leading her to help produce political podcast, The Breakdown by Julia Belle. Which similarly sets out to deliver jargon-free, accessible updates this time from the political sphere – a world renowned for being alienating and impenetrable to the average person.
Becoming an artist, especially one selling work, was never something Charlie had planned to do before now, “I’ve always enjoyed art but first of all, I’m definitely not an artist!” she coyly explains to me. “I’ve always found that it was quite an exclusive thing to get involved in and since I’m so far removed from feeling like a part of that culture, I’m really just creating work for myself.”
“I’m not painting for any reason other than sitting down to just experiment and play. I’m still learning the rest, this wasn’t a process that began by me wanting to sell my art; I got into that part accidentally.”
Charlie’s paintings are largely abstract in form, with soothing colour palettes and textures created using acrylic impasto. “I’ve always preferred abstract artworks because of their use of colour and texture, that tends to be what catches my attention rather than a specific artist. However, my all-time favourite piece of art is L’Escargot (the Snail) by Matisse.” On the subject of hard shelled creatures, another available print of Charlie’s paintings is the tongue-in-cheek titled Monsieur Crabs, which features a claw depicted in the red and blue of the French flag; a current favourite colour combination of Charlie’s.
When asked what inspired the subject, she tells me an amusing anecdote, “when lockdown was first announced and everyone was bulk-buying products like toilet roll, I’d gone to the local supermarket just to try and get whatever I could since the shelves were empty at home. As I walked down the aisles there already was just nothing left, except one shelf that was relatively untouched – a full display of Lobster; obviously no one was wanting to spend £20 on a Lobster tail!”
|Monsieur Crabs, Charlie Perry, 2020.|
Arguably this whole period could be considered the great return of the hobby. Without the usual distractions – and exhaustion – of life on the go, most of us are finding ourselves turning to new, or returning to past, endeavours. Whether that be installing Duolingo for the fifth time (this time, after being home alone all day, that green owl feels more like a friend checking in) or, like Charlie, the most timeless pastime of adding pigment to canvas. “Painting is unlike anything else” she tells me, “I also really like cooking but I have to do that to survive, whereas I feel like there’s nothing quite as therapeutic as painting.”
Converting that practice into something profitable, even charitable, just seemed to be the next step. “I’m not painting for any reason other than sitting down to just experiment and play. I’m still learning the rest, this wasn’t a process that began by me wanting to sell my art; I got into that part accidentally.”
Since we are all spending a lot more time at home right now, we are naturally forming a new relationship with isolation. From that solitude, great work has already begun to emerge creating objects that will serve as reminders of a moment in time we will not soon forget. Hopefully, we will continue to see people like Charlie using their platform to help create a future that is more transparent, bright and supportive once we are all able to return to the world outside.