The number three is significant across many cultural traditions. The Christian Trinity specifically refers to the three divine persons that make up one god; Daoism has the three Sovereigns of Heaven, Humanity, Hell. Three is often used to allude to the stages of life: the Hindu divine power Trimurti comprises Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). The three Moirai (Fates) of the Ancient Greeks spun, wove, and cut the thread of life.
These numerological narratives provide a starting point for us to think about Chris Charteris’ sculptural groups of three. Linked by relationships of form, material, and technique, single elements make up a larger whole and the works are underpinned by subtle intimations about the cyclical, enuring nature of the world we inhabit.
Each part of the monumental work Trinity (2022) speaks to the other. The polished lines that cut across the irregular shapes are like letter-forms from the same script, each slightly different but clearly of the same language. The lines undulate over the surface of each stone, tracing its internal shape. The weathered yellow-orange surfaces seem to have been peeled back in strips - a deceptively simple finish that belies Charteris’ exceptional skill. The igneous origins revealed in the fine-grained, grey interior contrasts with the stones’ exterior oxidisation, a more recent - geologically speaking - development.
Itutu, a set of three graduated whalebone needles, is also replete with material histories. The curved forms honour the organic form and strength of the whalebone; their soft patina emphasises the cellular structure of a material that would once have pulsed with life.
By choosing to magnify these everyday objects, Charteris reminds us that it is the small activities of our daily human existence that are truly significant in our stories. Needles are a domestic technology that stretches back aeons: the earliest needles - these too made from bone - date back 60,000 years. Itutu speaks to the generations of net-menders, sail-makers, and artisans who are part of all our ancestral lineages, linking us together.
Good things come in threes, and Chris Charteris’ sculptures prove the truth of this adage. Whether the works in this exhibition go to their new homes as individual pieces or as sets, they will become parts of new histories and will always be larger than the sum of their parts.