Step Into Wonderland At Urban Arts Studio

altBlackpool’s Linda Hampton attended the launch of Gillie Charlson’s exhibition, Wonderland, at Urban Arts Studio in St Annes and found herself staring into the faces of fantasy.

Gillie has been an artist for over 40 years and her lifelong fascination with antique dolls is not only the unique element of her life’s work but also what makes her stand apart from the rest. She started creating her own original dolls and sculptures in 1974 and at her first exhibition in Brighton sold all her dolls in 15 minutes. Since then she has won numerous awards for her skills all over the world.

She has created dolls for films including Shanghai Surprise with Madonna, and Catherine Cookson dramas. She famously once made a doll for the top of the Christmas tree at Buckingham Palace.

Although, she no longer makes dolls, Gillie’s current exhibition clearly demonstrates this prevailing influence in works such as Tree Nymph, Auton Sprite and Copper and Lace with their three dimensional dolls’ faces pushing through the canvas to stare hauntingly into the eyes of the viewer.

The paintings are delicately textured and beautifully finished, often in gold paint which adds a special touch of magic to each piece

Gillie has diversified through her career, from fashion designer to painter to jewellery maker. Examples of her paintings appear on the walls in the exhibition, and continue the textured theme while at the same time taking us into the ‘Wonderland’ of the exhibition’s title. I loved ‘Woodland Fairy’ with its combination of textured foliage and fantasy fairy figure.

The third element of this showcase of work is Gillie’s handmade jewellery. Once again, a combination of doll faces and delicate intricate detail are in these three dimensional pieces. One of a kind brooches and necklaces are all for sale.

Gillie’s versatility is demonstrated throughout this collection of works, as her different styles, mediums and techniques are all on show. Monochrome pictures, with a less detailed style still maintain the magical element of her work, although very different to the finely crafted three dimensional doll pieces.

John Brindley (whose other half, Mary Jules Brindley held her exhibition at Urban Arts Studio earlier this year) provided an acoustic music set, adding a relaxed ambience to the evening with guitar and voice, covering songs from all eras.

Many pieces of Gillie’s work were claimed on the night by enthusiastic collectors, but there are still many beautiful artworks and pieces of jewellery still available to buy

Winner of Lancashire women of the year 1997 Gillie is an inspirational Lancashire artist whom we are honoured to claim as our own. Be sure to take the opportunity to view these unique works by an outstandingly talented but very modest lady.


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