The Time of Sands

Last winter I spent a stint in Atlantis Books in Santorini, a small and beautifully hand-made bookshop built into the cliffside, with a stunning view out over the caldera. I had the pleasure of sharing the bookshop with Charlotte Koster, probably one of the foremost sand sculptors in the world. She is very quiet about this, and it took me some time to find out.

It’s difficult for me to choose from the many pieces she’s created over the years, but you can see more of her work over at her blog, Marble Road. Charlotte is a great artist, and talks cogently and passionately about her work. Her designs are not so much sculpture as architecture; not so much architecture as landscape. She has scope and ambition, as well as a playfulness with the clichés of her medium. This is one of my favourites:


In an arena where the emphasis has been increasingly on going up, Charlotte decides to go down. There is a story behind the sculpture that emerges as you stare at it. And you do stare at it. The question that has at some point struck all mediums of depiction is; once realism has been achieved, where do we go from here? Once the Dutch and Italian masters had achieved photorealism in their painting, the art world had to find new directions to expand into, new ways to innovate. After Flaubert and Balzac, after George Eliot and the Great Russian novelists, the novel was ready for Beckett and Joyce. It will be fascinating to watch this happen in the world of sand art, as the medium gains more widespread recognition.

Anyway, you should check out her work in sand, but I’d be doing a disservice to her and to you if I didn’t also point you in the direction of her sketches and gold leaf work. She has a distinctive style, drawing as though the pen is trying to escape the page; patches of colour and light loosely insinuated, falling across faces.

The subject matter is intimate and strange. People falling asleep on trains. Moments of unabashed nakedness. It is powerful stuff, and you would not expect it from the quietly confident Dutch girl who mumbles something dismissive about sculpting and sand that you thought you heard correctly, but didn’t quite catch.

Atlantis Books, the cliffside bookshop in Oia, Santorini.

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