Interview with Charlotte Stuby
We met up with the visual artist Charlotte Stuby to talk about her background, her practice and some of her past and upcoming projects. The Swiss-born, Brussels-based artist has shown work in group and solo exhibitions in Belgium and Switzerland. Her latest group shows include 'Garage Pirate' at Recyclart in Brussels (2023), 'Panart' in Neuchâtel, Switzerland (2022) and 'L'ennui régnait au dehors' at Pano in Vevey, Switzerland (2021).
Can you start by introducing yourself and explaining when and how your interest in art started?
I am Charlotte Stuby. I was born in Vevey in Switzerland but I have been based in Belgium for the past 8 years. From a young age I really loved working with any kind of fabrics. I enjoyed using my mom’s sewing machine a lot. I like the tactile aspect of textile as it gives me a feeling of texture, surface and layer. In the past, I also used to take many pictures of my surroundings, mostly joyful compositions, elements of landscape, mountains and architecture. Even though I am taking fewer pictures now, I think this practice is still present in my current work, but in a different way. A few years ago, I wrote an essay, ‘Creatures in Reality’ published by Grafische Cel in 2018. The book focuses on my research on the diverse range of textile elements we come across everyday such as protections on scaffoldings, nets on vineyards, motorcycle, car or plant covers. Their fascinating shapes form strange and surprising creatures. This book is a combination of these two practices that are close to my heart.
After high school I decided to study arts. It was a spontaneous decision as I wanted to learn and do some research in this field. I did a bachelor in the Visual Arts department at ECAL in Lausanne, Switzerland. During that time I was working with many different materials, including concrete and metal, and mostly creating installations. Then, I started to make some textile assemblages to hang on the wall but I needed some techniques to develop this practice. So I decided to move to Belgium as textile was a department in art schools. I did a year at the Arba ESA in Brussels in tapestry during which I learned different weaving techniques. I then continued my studies with a Master in textile design at LUCA School of Arts in Ghent.
Creatures in Reality by Charlotte Stuby
Can you tell us a bit about your practice and explain what you like about working with textile?
I mainly create narrative textile installations by using a variety of textiles and threads. I embroider, quilt or sew figurative and organic elements. I explore the possibilities of the textile medium in its material and symbolic meaning. My compositions can be functional while at the same time conveying a narrative which can sometimes be enigmatic. Through this process, I question the notion of identity and memory. By materializing symbols, sometimes imaginary logos, I interpret popular representations from my own experience.
I also do tapestry. It has a meditative aspect to it. I usually only produce one tapestry a year, as the weaving process is very slow.
Working with textiles somehow fits with my personality. I love how every fabric has a different texture and pattern. But of course, there is also an important practical aspect. I can easily fold or roll my works in a suitcase which makes transport really easy.
How do you explain your choice of working with mainly primary colors?
Primary colors are indeed very present in my work as I often take my inspiration from flags or elements of visual identity such as symbols and logos. It’s very instinctive for me to work with bright, vibrant and bold colors which create vivid contrasts.
Charlotte Stuby, Seule avec un étoile sur le front, 2020, tapestry, made of cotton, 24x35cm, €900 - work available on Murmur
Charlotte Stuby, Vesta (red)I, mixed textile, 55x68cm, €450 - work available on Murmur
Do you give any importance on the kind of textile and threads you use ?
Yes definitely. I mostly use waterproof and nylon fabrics. These kinds of textiles are ideal for creating collages and to build a solid structure. Unfortunately they are not very environmentally friendly. What I try to do is to collect deadstock of raw materials as much as I can. Last year I had a project for which I created large banners and now I am using the fabric scraps of that project to create smaller works. What is nice about using these is that they are often already cut in interesting shapes. I can use them as they are to make new assemblages. I generally try to buy as little as possible and recover as much as possible.
To create textile works which are meant to be presented outdoors I am obliged to buy weather resistant fabric. For instance, the outdoor exhibition that I had in Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 2022 was a great experience as I had to create pieces of work by keeping in mind the weather conditions it would experience while being hung outside in public space.
For my tapestry works I mix different types of found threads: cotton, linen, silk and wool. Each thread has a different property, for instance silk is shiny and wool is matte. It is important to me to weave threads of quality so that the piece can be well preserved.
'Ephemera', Panart at Neuchâtel (CH), Spring 2022
3 banners inspired by Neuchatel's landscape, dimension variable
Pictures by Thalles Piaget
How has your work changed over time?
Not much has changed. I still mainly work in situ. Lately I have been creating some new abstract pieces.
Also, in the last years I have done quite a few collaborations with other artists and creatives. I really enjoy working in a pair. Over the last two years, I have worked on several projects with the fashion designer Susanne Fischer. Working together means that we can share our skills and knowledge and learn from each other. It allows us to come up with new ideas that we would not have come up with on our own. I try to find a good balance between working with others and working on my own projects.
'Handle With Joy' at DBKA Paddock, Brussels (BE), Winter 2023
In collaboration with Sarah Margnetti and Susanne Fischer
Picture by Lola Pertsowsky
You regularly create functional pieces such as backpacks, bike covers, sweaters or jackets. What do you enjoy about creating these?
I feel the urge to also share my work outside of an exhibition space. I like the idea that these functional objects are not static, hanging on a wall, but that they move around, get stained, get lost. They are autonomous in a way and appear and disappear. I love to see someone carrying a bag that I've made and running into them by coincidence.
'Here not here' at Museum of Moving Practice, 019
LUCA School of Arts, Gent (BE), 2017
Picture by Michiel De Cleene
Can you tell us a bit more about your monumental textile work ‘Keepsake’ which you created for Kunsthal Gent.
‘Keepsake’ is a textile installation of 8x5m which I created for Kunsthal Ghent in November 2019. It is part of their ‘Endless Exhibition’ in which the works that are part of the exhibition can be moved or adapted every now and then. Every year I am invited to update this banner. The project is truly smart as it questions the overproduction, mass consumption and short attention span of today's art world. But I wonder if visitors are fed up with seeing my work there (laughs).
You’re mainly active in Switzerland and in Belgium. How are these two countries different and what has each country taught you?
My Swiss background has had a profound impact on me, specifically in regard to nature, mountain sceneries, and lakeside horizons.
When I arrived in Belgium, I felt a certain freedom to experiment, which gave me confidence in my work. In addition, I learnt to be more rigorous in my work during my bachelor's degree, whereas during my master's degree, I was more experimental and researched different materials.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on a project for the Yper Museum, where there will be an exhibition related to textile. I did some research on a collection of around 300 badges from the Middle Ages that they found around the city of Yper. I am creating a work related to this discovery and it is a very exciting story.
Interview by Atena Abrahimia
Brussels, July 2023