Artist Feature: Charlene Galea a love for performance

Tell us about how your practice started?

I went to study at a later stage in life at the age of 28. Before that I was living in London and experiencing life and culture without thinking I would take this information and behaviour and translate into art and reflective stories. I started studying in London, Creative Direction for Fashion as a Bachelors and realised when the course was over that I can never go down the commercial route of Fashion as it did not represent me as an individual, instead I went off  exploring different parts of the world such as Barcelona and Mexico and documented life and living through everyday life performance. After that I came back to Malta and started a Masters in Digital Fine Arts. Whilst there I realised my main interest is performance (through digital platforms or even in front of an audience)  and storytelling as a way to communicate. But  this was at the age of 36 when I have realised how much more political issues of the body and space I would like to explore and voice out in my future years.

Charlene Galea
Portrait of Charlene Galea.

What influence has your heritage had on your work?

I come from an agricultural family where art is not common grounds we talk about, but creation is something I’ve used since I was a child growing plants and seeing them grow. I did not grow in an art or museum-going family for sure. Being unhappy in my body for many years and struggling with a few addictions as well has given me the experience to be humble and honest when talking about the lived body and our human skin and mind. My life experiences such as working as a waitress and living in a city has opened my perspective when discussing subjects such as capitalism and all my years clubbing has definitely made me understand subjects such as identity, communities, utopias and space. I see every life experience as an opportunity to be turned into a research topic.

From the project ‘PRIVAT: The natural body as fiction.’

Favourite artwork/project/exhibition? What is your preferred research method?

This is hard as each project I have been part of has made me reflect both inside my inner feelings and outside towards how I can be close to other people and how the process of the work can reach to how they are part of lived life. I love challenges and risks that is why I love performance as it makes me dance, sing, act, write, photograph, read, talk and collaborate. It can be a combination of all, and usually I get bored concentrating on one subject due to my ADHD. Each project meant collaborating with other people and growing in my knowledge, therefore I am not gonna mention my favourite exhibition. Instead, I am going to mention my favourite artwork. This has been printing a 50 by 90 inch close-up of my own vulva and using the image as part of a performance in St. James Cavalier about the female orgasm titled ‘Did you come’.

“I love challenges and risks. That is why I love performance as it makes me dance, sing, act, write, photograph, read, talk and collaborate.”

The artwork meant so much to me as it was a process of becoming closer (and bringing other women to theirs)  to my own sacred body part of which the same body part has been shamed, neglected, hyper sexualised, offended and traumatised. Seeing your own vulva represented bigger than your own eyesight has made me realise how powerful and strong is the female form which is hidden from us women. The research topic itself made me question why I am so unknowledgeable about the topic of orgasm and so many other individuals around me feel the same. Tackling the topic in Malta both on social media and in an exhibition has been a challenge as the female form is still mostly being represented by male artists as a sight of pleasure without really understanding its pain and fear and as well as an unusual subject to pop up on your social media feed whilst you are scrolling. And I wanted to be as raw and real as possible to reflect the female vulva as a life story lived by a woman not just as a passive artwork but as a loud voice demanding us to wake up and celebrate .

From the performance 'Did you come.'
From the performance 'Did you come?' at St. James Cavalier, Valletta.

Favourite artist/s? Why and how they’ve influenced your work?

I love Martin Creed and his exhibition ‘What’s the point of it?’ in Hayward Gallery from a few years ago. I remember attending this show and seeing so much the point of small things we take for granted from the paper ball scrunched, to the ticking clock to the video of the erected penis in slow motion overlooking the London Eye. Then I am an absolute lover for anything artworks with text which is written with humour but sarcasm and hence I am a lover of Coco Capitan and Richie Culver’s work. I love artists who discuss public spaces and do public art with no intention to sell but to wake us humans up. For pleasure of sitting down with a book and look at art I choose the photography works of Vivian Sassen, Mark Brothwick and Wolfgang Tillmans, where I can relate a  part of my own life and vision with theirs.

Tell us a bit more about the piece you contributed to ‘The 20s Take Two’ exhibition. What was the inspiration? What was your process? What techniques did you use?

The selfie collage has been part of the work mentioned in question 3. The performance ‘Did you come?’ involved as well a lot of reading, collaborating and reflecting on inner thoughts. The image of the body is my own selfie but the message of it multiplying is the voice of the other women I have interviewed throughout the research about their personal experience of orgasm. Each body experienced a different story but we are all women and we are all connected. Nature is the bed where we become alive, strong and nurtured, the place where our mind is sent to rest and we become unified again as body, mind and soul. The scene is a healing orgasm for me, a longing to touch and to be in touch once again. The medium used is collage (all images are my own not found material), created very fast after deep thinking.

'The final orgasm', Charlene's work shown in the '20's Take Two' virtual exhibition.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

After what happened with COVID-19 this is a tricky question. But my heart belongs in Latin America. So hopefully documenting or living in a part over there. My skater ex once said, you can do so much with your body and you are doing nothing, and that triggered me to start to move and keep moving. I am an outdoor life person, a communication addict and a risk free soul, so who knows what I will eventually be doing!! 🙂

Connect and stay updated with Charlene’s latest updates on her ARTZ ID profile

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