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A new large-scale video sculpture by Charlotte Colbert on view at UNIT9
Charlotte Colbert, Self Portrait.

LONDON.- UNIT9 is presenting ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, a new large-scale video sculpture by Charlotte Colbert (b. 1985, New York). The work is from Colbert’s series of anthropomorphic multi-screen sculptures, which explore contemporary approaches to portraiture through moving image:

I was interested in capturing the surreal intimacy of being with someone. The tiny details of silent communication. — Charlotte Colbert

The subject of this portrait is Sue Tilley aka ‘Big Sue’, the Benefits Supervisor launched into the public realm through a seminal series of paintings by Lucian Freud after the two were introduced by Leigh Bowery in 1990.

Colbert’s work stages Sue Tilley within the original studio where Lucian Freud first painted her. On this Colbert comments, ‘The paint splattered on the floorboards would have been the very paint that painted Sue.’

Through the decades, Sue has remained iconoclastic as a counterpoint to the mainstream models that populate our screens. Speaking of the rusted steel that encases the subject of the portrait, Colbert likens the texture of the frame to that of ageing skin.

Examining Freud’s iconic series of paintings and exploring the mystery of its subject, Colbert uses 3D technology to zoom in on discrete observations of Sue Tilley. Colbert shoots her subjects close up in real time, so that each screen shows a moving image of a different part of Tilley’s body, so that the work becomes a kind of deconstructed living nude. Slowing down footage and stretching the encounter between artist and subject, Colbert’s work uses technology to extend the gaze. Through the process, object become subject:

I like the idea of turning the tables and subverting the male gaze. Sue is now looking at us. — Charlotte Colbert

Shot entirely in black and white and without sound, the work plays with the notion that technology is – by default – continually rendering itself obsolete. This meditative work serves as a momento mori that aims to encourage close observation and self-reflection. Colbert’s multi-screen sculptures remind the viewer that while technology enables us to see more than ever before, it also fragments our gaze, distracting us from the bigger picture; it connects us to others yet disconnects us at the same time.

Charlotte Colbert (b. 1985, New York) is a Franco/British artist and film-maker who lives and works in London. She studied philosophy at Montreal’s Liberal Arts College and completed her Masters at London Film School in 2009. Selected solo exhibitions include ‘Ordinary Madness’, Gazelli Art House, London (2016); ‘In and Out of Space’, a public commission at 90 Piccadilly, London (2015) and ‘Stornoway’, Wilmotte and Tristan Hoare Gallery, London (2011). Selected group exhibitions include ‘The Body Issue’, Now Gallery, London (2017); ‘Modern Penelope Collective’, Palm Tree Gallery, London (2017); ‘From Selfie to Self-Expression’, Saatchi Gallery, London (2017) and ‘Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick’ curated by James Lavelle and James Putnam, Somerset House, London (2016).

Colbert has made a number of large-scale screen sculptures, including a self-portrait that appeared in ‘From Selfie to Self-Expression’ at the Saatchi Gallery last year, which will travel to the Hermitage, St Petersburg later this year; a family portrait with her husband and young child, and a contemporary interpretation of the Madonna and Child (with model Lily Cole) to comment on the politics of breastfeeding following the controversy of Instagram removing images of breastfeeding mothers.

Her artistic work is anchored within the language of film and storytelling. Her photographs are mostly conceived as a series, a sequence developed in script format before being shot. Photographic images also form the basis of her ceramics and original prints. In addition, Colbert is a filmmaker who has made documentaries and is directing her first feature film this year.

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