To those who don’t know me my name is Charlie Russell, I am an artist from South East London. I am about to graduate aged 24 with a BA in Fine Art: Painting at Camberwell College of the Arts, University of the Arts London. My practice draws on my lived experiences in working-class spaces and forms narratives about working-class interaction with the built environment in the city I grew up in, exploring themes of social mobility, lack of opportunity and other harmful processes that exist in contemporary Britain today.
Before I began my studies at UAL I worked for three years in an office job. During this time I convinced myself that people from my background couldn’t pursue a career in the arts – that I wouldn’t have the resources to succeed. Eventually I decided I would be happier doing what I love and despite my concerns, my ability and determination have only grown. Since then my work has been displayed in seven exhibitions, one of which at Christie’s. I have built an online following and began to believe that art could become something more than a passion.
I didn’t want my journey with art to end with my time at UAL, so I applied to the Royal College of Art to continue on an MA in Painting at one of the most prestigious art schools in the country. Although honoured to be accepted, I was dismayed to find the Masters loan I could obtain through student finance was several thousand pounds short of my fees, before considering living expenses. I found this upsetting, it reminded me of why I was reluctant to study art in the first place. Creative workers born between 1953 and 1962 were 16.4% working class, for those born four decades later, the number is 7.9% (Office for National Statistics Data). My experience only drives home why this is the case.
My practice explores working-class spaces across London where I've grown up. I use organic materials and building supplies to echo London's living conditions, using textures and shapes to communicate the concerns of social mobility and the spread of gentrification. I strip artificial and organic structures of their material properties to assess impacts on communities, converting organic shapes into indeterminate forms as proposed living spaces, analysis of London landscapes and an invitation into working-class homes, blurring the lines between stability and chaos. I want to continue this work, challenging and illuminating the working-class experience in Britain today.
Thanks to several generous individuals and their kind donations I am £1,880 off being able to pay my fees to continue to study and practise my art at RCA. I am selling both pieces of work and prints through my website. I have also made a gofundme page to ask for any contributions, small or large to help me attend RCA next year.
Thank you to anyone who donates, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.