Growing up in the Belgian countryside surrounded by nature and beauty was early inspiration for painter Charlotte Culot. Born into a family of artists, she also benefitted greatly from close proximity to her parents’ artistic endeavors: her father’s work as a ceramist and sculptor, as well as her mother’s creations as a book illustrator and engraver. “Both my parents just naturally shared their perspective and creativity with us children,” says Culot. “From the beginning, I was in contact with nature and organic shapes, and when I was little I had the chance to meet a lot of artists and designers in Paris.”
This early and regular exposure to artists and art helped shape Culot’s own creative sensibilities. While studying archaeology and art history at university, Culot was drawn to photography, where her interest in materials and color led her to start photographing details of walls throughout the world. Intrigued by the walls’ patinas, scars, and striations, Culot produced photos of them that resembled abstract paintings. Documenting those walls reinforced Culot’s passions and established the foundations of her success as a working—and prolific—artist. “From photography I started a career as a painter,” she says, “and that is really what I am.”
Culot painted abstract compositions with her own hand-made gouache on kraft paper, then on stained and rusted wallpaper torn from old plaster walls. She “liked working the ‘crunchy’ surface of old wallpaper,” and in time, began assembling collages from torn fragments of those papers—the inspiration for the many collage-based gouache paintings that followed.
Culot began exhibiting her work in Europe, and a glowing review in The New York Times following her first American show in Newport in 1994 launched her career in the United States. Three years ago, while visiting a foundation in Provence, Culot saw a large tapestry by Le Corbusier. “I was totally struck by what was in front of me,” she says, “and decided then to translate my work to tapestry.”
This story appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of MILIEU. To read the complete story or to see all photos, visit the MILIEU Newsstand to purchase this issue in print or visit Zinio.com to purchase this issue in digital format.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PORTIA SARRIS
WRITTEN BY EDWARD MCCANN