While some artists seem to explore themes that come to them through spontaneous inspiration, Scottish-born, London-based artist Charles Avery has devoted his career over the past decade to an imaginary, nameless island. His sculptures, drawings, installations and texts — even if seemingly unrelated — culminate in the description of a specific, fictional world like an anthropological study. Over the course of his work from 2004 to today, details about the island have revealed themselves. In fact, its fate isn’t so different from many other countries formerly under British rule.
Avery imagines his island as former colonial outpost that evolved into a metropolis, eventually taking a downward turn with only the tourism industry left to sustain itself. The artist himself grew up on the Isle of Mull off of the west coast of Scotland and there are sure to be autobiographical elements in this meticulously planned body of work. This elaborate backstory isn’t required for appreciating Avery’s sculptures, which juxtapose busts evoking the Classical period with contemporary design elements. The staid faces of his subjects are adorned with surreal, geometric headpieces created with unconventional, ephemeral materials such as papier-mache and cardboard. Avery’s minimalist color palette makes these details visually striking and all the more enigmatic.