Charles Avery, artist, on his Wellington boots.
GB Tell me why you chose your Wellington boots.
CA When asked to select an object of beauty I was on the Isle of Mull and they were close at hand
GB Is there anything special about the design of this particular pair to you?
CA There is, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They are substantial, comfortable, high quality, protective, and clearly quite evolved. I’m sure I could get bitten in the ankle by a conger eel and it wouldn’t puncture them.
They sit just in the porch, and when I come back here and enter the house they are the first thing I see, or notice, constant and immutable.
I have had them many years, and I’m sure they will last another 20, when I would buy another identical pair. I wear them every day when I’m here. They slip on and off very nicely, which is good because I’m constantly going in and out of the house.
It’s important for me to have everyday footwear without laces. I am bad with laces; they always seem to unravel, or get stuck in a ridiculously tight knot. And you know you will be able to buy wellies in 20 years, hardly altered, because they are a classic. There’s nothing that’s going to happen in the world that is going to make them obsolete, I am confident in that.
GB Is their beauty more related to the experiences they represent to you? Do you imagine that other people would find them beautiful?
CA I don’t think other people would single them out, not really. The protagonist of my fiction, known as Only Mcphew is a slim lad with reed like legs who goes around in a pair of such substantial boots, so I suppose they are emblematic of him.
We have a small boat on a mooring sheltered by a reef right next to the house. In order to get to the boat we have an even smaller boat (a tender). The wellies are essential for taxying my small children to the boat. I think its blissful being on the water — the sea is so clear here you can see the bottom quite clearly at 20ft. So they represent that to me!
GB Is this a different kind of beauty to beauty that’s found in art?
CA If it was a different kind of beauty I would want to call is something different. One can endeavor to bring about the phenomenon of beauty through artfulness, which some people would say amounts to art. ‘Beauty’ is a word that gets used a lot, carelessly, as is ‘Art’. Both are terms for which the meaning is assumed to be self-evident, but those meanings are rarely examined. It’s okay to use those words carelessly though, in a quotidian way, as long as you’re not being aggressive. The amount of times I’ve been needled at dinner parties or private views, and been asked, “…but is it Art?” … and that question is generally meant in an aggressive way.
GB Do you like your art to be considered beautiful?
CA I’m in the business of meaning, not beauty. The terms Art and Beauty are often related but according to my system that relationship is accidental.
GB Does beauty ever inspire you to create art?
CA Here on Mull, in whichever direction one looks, as far as the eye can see, the scenery is breathtaking. People who have lived here all their lives are still struck by it, which makes you feel it must be objective. I never met anyone who came here and didn’t care for it. But it does not inspire me to create work; quite the opposite. When I’m here, I just want to be in amongst it, on the land, in the water. It has inspired me to design a jetty, which I hope to get built this year. But when I get back to London I then feel inspired by the Island, perhaps by remoteness from it : a longing. I love that about London, the constant striving, longing.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
CA On the Island of my fiction there is a prophet called Amot Tomamota, a sort of Homeric character to whom all otherwise unattributed dictums are given. He describes beauty as ‘the unaccountable attractiveness of things’. I subscribe to this definition (because I wrote it). If something is attractive to me I know not why, then I consider it beautiful.