In 2004, Charles Avery embarked on what will be a lifelong project titled The Islanders: a painstakingly detailed immersive investigation of the fabric and possibilities of another place. Through drawings, texts and objects Avery describes the inhabitants, architecture, philosophies, customs and idiosyncrasies of this imagined territory.
With accents of the Scottish Hebrides and East London, the Island is situated at the centre of an archipelago of 'innumerable constituents'. Its capital is the port city of Onomatopoeia: originally a stepping off point for pioneers and travellers, turned bustling boomtown, turned citadel, turned depression ravaged slum, turned regenerated city of culture. It has many eras, and sculptural objects and printed matter from this strange land are often presented as incongruous but familiar interventions into our own world.
Elements of the project have recently been exhibited at the 16th Istanbul Biennial (2019),the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kerela (2017) and at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art as part of the NOW series of exhibitions (2019). In 2007, Avery represented Scotland at the 52nd Venice Biennale,.
In 2014 Avery was exhibited in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art as a part of the GENERATION project, which celebrated 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland. A major solo exhibition focussing on the inhabitants and artefacts of The Island's port town, The People and Things of Onomatopoeia, was presented at Ingleby in 2015 accompanied by a public commission sited in Waverley Station for the Edinburgh Art Festival. In 2019 Avery investigated the city of Onomatopeoia further in The Gates of Onomatopoeia, focussing on the activities around the city's harbour wall, presented with a further specimen from the Island's municipal park; The Union Tree, at Ingleby.
Avery’s work is held in many public collections including the Tate, London; Kunstmuseum, The Hague, Netherlands and the David Roberts Art Foundation, London.