Key facts about the artist

Untitled (View of the Port at Onomatopoeia)
Untitled (View of the Port at Onomatopoeia), 2009-2010

His whole creative output centres on a single project called 'The Islanders'
Avery is self-taught
Venice Biennale 2007


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About Charles's work

In 2004 Charles Avery embarked on a project called The Islanders, which was conceived as a way to explore, consolidate and give direction to his art and ideas. The Islanders is a painstakingly detailed and diverse description of a fictional island in drawing and painting, sculpture and texts.

Untitled (View of the Port at Onomatopoeia) (2009–10) shows the full might of Avery’s imagination and drawing skills. Measuring over five metres wide, this drawing immerses the viewer in a scene of the bustling port of Onomatopoeia, the main town on the island. With the edges of the composition less detailed, attention is focused on the centre of the paper, which shows a diverse group of mysterious island inhabitants and their wares, alongside visitors who have arrived by boat.

Avery’s drawings are made entirely from his imagination. He improvises as he goes. Once a narrative emerges he develops it in several directions and uses different ways to tell the story.

The island’s natives are known as the If’en and have their own specific customs, gods and favourite foods. They live in a geometric landscape of vast plains and towns with cultural buildings and municipal parks.

It is important to consider the differences between Avery’s drawings and his sculptures. In essence, the drawings are narrative whilst the sculptures, such as hats, trees and animals, can be understood as items which have been sold as souvenirs to the island’s tourists. Therefore they have been removed from their original island context and are now situated in reality – creating a direct connection between the two. Avery extends this link through the inclusion of the protagonist, the Hunter, who has travelled to the island and documents what he experiences from an outsider’s perspective.

Avery prefers to exhibit a broad selection of works together so as to pose questions concerning the likes of mathematics, philosophy and time, whilst also offering the viewer a more in-depth experience of the island’s topology and cosmology. If The Islanders is ever completed, Avery hopes for it to be consolidated in a large, leather-bound encyclopaedic book, accessible to anyone interested in it.


Charles Avery (born 1973, Oban) moved to London in 1993 where he completed a foundation course at Chelsea School of Art. Apart from this he remains largely self-taught as an artist. In 1996, Avery jointly set up an artist-led spacewhere he exhibited, before holding his first solo show at Entwistle Gallery, London, in 1998. In 2008 The Islanders: An Introduction opened at Parasol Unit, London, before touring to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. In 2007 Avery participated in Scotland + Venice at the 52nd Venice Biennale. He lives and works in London.

More information

Charles Avery, The Islanders: An Introduction, Koenig Books, London, 2008

Charles Avery, Onomatopoeia: The Port, Koenig Books, London, 2010



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