Born in South Africa in 1964, Clifford Charles was the first black student to graduate with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, during apartheid in South Africa. His early work was an attempt to capture the violence and state oppression exhibited on the streets but which citizens were forbidden to document. As one of the earliest members of the Afrika Cultural Centre, he also worked for fifteen years as an ‘artist/activist’ in unions, hospitals and other social institutions. For many years Charles lived in Johannesburg, but now lives in West Sussex where he lives in a cottage on the Goodwood Estate.

In recent years Charles’ work has moved towards abstraction. In 2003 he took part in a group show called Faultlines at the Venice Biennale which explored artists from Africa and the Diaspora. His contribution, called ‘Painting on water’ contained an implicit conundrum – the impossibility of producing images on something moving. ‘It was concerned with process and movement and not being bound or fixed by identity or tradition and allowing ourselves to be mutable, movable and transform,’ he says.

For more than 16 years he has worked in ink. This concentrated approach is reflected in the title of the exhibition, ‘Less ness’, which is concerned with removing excess distractions and getting to the core of what life is and what is valued. ‘We live in a world where we are constantly fed and bombarded by images so the opportunities to just stand still are becoming very limited’, he says. ‘My work, I hope, offers the chance for the viewer to engage with that moment of stillness.’