Charmaine Watkiss

The Return, 2018 – detail: pencil, graphite powder, carbon, hand-made indigo watercolour on Canson paper; 130cm x175cm


My work is concerned with what I call ‘memory stories’. I create these stories primarily through research connected to the African Caribbean diaspora, I then map the stories onto life sized figures. I draw myself only as a conduit to relay stories which speak about a collective experience. I start with a theme then allow intuition and a dialogue with the work to take over.

Pencil and paper are my main materials of choice, and as the work develops I often include other materials such as watercolour, wax, ink, coloured pencil etc. I use this layering of material as a way of weaving additional narratives into the work, allowing the material to speak in a way that the drawing itself can’t. Drawing is central to how I approach all of the work I make, so I use this language in my printmaking, book work and video pieces.

I work in a non linear way, starting with the research then taking inspiration from all different sources which helps to add surprising elements which come together to add richness to the stories I tell. Even though I reference the past in my research, there is always something contained in the narrative which is relevant to our present time – which for me represents the cyclical nature of history.

The work recently has shifted more towards tracing ancestral traditions which have survived the the transatlantic; the stories, rituals and customs which have become a part of Caribbean culture and have now adapted again as the diaspora move beyond the Americas into the western world. My memory stories shift between the archeological, the cosmological and the historical spaces – always looking back in order to create a new projection in the present.


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