Michelle Charles moved back to London in 2001, having lived and worked in the United States for the previous two decades. Since her return, she has established a London studio and had significant solo exhibitions including Kettles Yard and the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Guy Brett, in a catalogue essay for Kettles Yard, notes that Michelle Charles has painted glasses or bottles countless times for over two decades, and explains that
what actually happens is that the glasses or bottles become light-traps, or light-vessels. Charles has not yet finished exploring all the possible inflections and subtle nuances that a single, simple object can be invested with… She has shown and continues to show us the extraordinary freedom and inventiveness of the brush stroke that issues from and returns to a single form.” He points out that in order “to render the transparent she must make use of a material that is opaque. How the opaque is transformed into transparency is one of the sources of the magic in her art. The change is not in the material, which remains dense, but occurs in our understanding, our perception.
Observing her on-going series of paintings of single glasses and bottles on book covers, Brett comments that:
the books are faded testimonies of intellectual effort… Many are superannuated from libraries, retired from an active life, and Charles’ glasses and bottles, in the very freshness of their brushstrokes seem to re-nourish the dwindled intellectual energies.
The American curator and critic, Henry Geldzahler, when he first was introduced to Charles’s work in the early 1990’s, said that he found her work to be
beautiful in its tension between the ancient (glass vessels, for instance) and the absolutely contemporary. In her work she incorporates palimpsestic drawing and re-drawing in her search for the true nominal shape of things.
Her work has been exhibited internationally, including exhibitions with The New Museum, NY; The Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY; The Weatherspoon Museum Of Art, North Carolina; New York galleries Anthony Grant, and John Weber Gallery; Mobile Home Gallery, London; The Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston UK, the first Lodz Biennale in Poland; The Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society; and Kettles Yard, Cambridge, UK.
Public collections holding Charles’ work include: The Brooklyn Museum, British Museum, the Wellcome Trust, The National Museum of Art Washington DC, The Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover MA, The Jerome Foundation, Minneapolis, MN. The Contemporary Arts Society, London, and The Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, London.
She has received numerous awards for her work, most recently a third award from the Pollock Krasner Foundation (2015-2016), a Bryan Robertson Award (2011), and an Arts Council England Award (2008).