Even though we spend our working days surrounded by flowers of all shapes and sizes, we’re quite happy filling every inch of our lives with incarnations of beautiful blooms. Which is why we were excited to discover the delicate paintings of Charlotte Verity, an observational artist inspired by the natural world. We were fortunate enough to steal some time with Charlotte to reflect on her creative journey, and to find out what the future holds…
Born and raised in Germany, you moved here to study art in your early twenties. What drew you to London, Charlotte?
I was a forces child, my father was in the RAF, and he happened to have a posting in Germany when I was born. What was more of an influence on me was living in Cyprus and then Turkey and going to school there. I loved it but although I was very young, I remember a powerful sense of nostalgia for our home in the English countryside, with its rambling garden surrounded by fields which had felt enormous to me at the time.
I became obsessed with drawing, and by the time I was fourteen
We understand that you won the coveted Slade Prize in your final year, and were later awarded the Boise Travelling Scholarship to Italy. Tell us about these incredible achievements…
Yes, I am still grateful! I bought a hardwood easel with my prize money which, as we speak, is standing in the garden, as useful as ever. The months in Italy, absorbing the great works of art there, gave me a long-lasting sense of what painting could achieve. The great works of Piero de la Francesca, Leonardo, Simone Martini, Masaccio to name just some of them, have a marvellous wholeness about them. Their depiction of the natural world is fresh and full of exploration and curiosity. Although always keenly observed, profound matters are at their heart – high standards to aspire to!
You have contributed to numerous exhibitions, you teach at the Royal Drawing School, and feature in many collections and publications. What would be your proudest moment to date?
On the occasion of an exhibition in December 2016 at Purdy Hicks Gallery in London, Ridinghouse, an excellent small fine art publisher released their monograph about my work. I am very proud that Paul Hills and Edmund de Waal, both great writers, made such beautiful contributions to the book. The first time that I read their texts was a good moment.
To be in public collections is an honour and important, but what has made me particularly happy is when artists whom I admire and respect have bought my work for their own homes: Vicken Parsons and Antony Gormley, Paul Winstanley, Alison Wilding, Rebecca Salter, Edmund de Waal, Richard Deacon, Gary Fabian Miller are some of the names… and the writer Polly Devlin who, like Gary, has bought work over the decades.
Where do you find your inspiration?
We have a small garden in London where we’ve lived for over 30 years. It is not filled with special or rare plants, but what is there, I love and know. Plants from a shop rarely move me enough to paint them – perhaps that’s a tactless thing to say to someone in the trade – but respecting flowers as you do, I’m sure you understand! Through my garden I am acutely aware of the passing of time. What is wonderful, a great privilege, about being a painter is that I can stand and stare, in fact it’s my job! I can watch the plants as they grow and fade, so sensitive to the shifts in light and warmth and the compelling way that the seasons change in this country. I long to show – to draw to people’s attention to – what I have witnessed. By taking time to look around me, I see marvellous things and retain a sense of wonder at the apples on the tree ripening to scarlet, or the fragile nature of a so-called white rose against a white painted wall, the brilliant and intense yellow of a Flag iris – there are countless such moments and they continue to surprise me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m about to pick up a painting that I was doing last year at about this time. It is mainly the long stem of a rambling rose, with vermilion thorns. When I paint stems they lose their scale and feel like pathways, tracks and roads.
What is in store for the future?
Having spent time in the early part of this year on lithographs and watercolours with a limited colour range, I’m working on a series of large oil paintings which I will be showing next January at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury. They will be hung in a beautiful, newly completed gallery space.
Last but not least, what is your favourite flower?
There is no simple answer to this!
The snowdrop in January, the lily of the valley in May, the daisy in July. Not forgetting the iris, epimedium, hydrangea, apple blossom, and the glorious Gloire de Dijon rose that transforms the front of our house in early summer….