Christiane Shillito is a woman with many different layers. Within a whirlwind of performances, adventures and photo shoots – her stage name Ulorin Vex has become well known around the world – she is also Malady Charlotina, artist and painter. Born in England, Christiane grew up with her twin sister in Newcastle near the famous Hadrian’s Wall. She completed a BSc (Hons) degree in Natural Sciences, and filled with an interest for something different she decided to pursue a career as an alternative model. She has appeared in numerous fashion shoots, joined singer Emilie Autumn’s stage performers the Bloody Crumpets for her European Asylum Tour, and modelled for the likes of Westward Bound, Cyberesque, FairyGothMother and BibianBlue. We got in touch with her to find out more about her and her artwork.
You go under the alias Malady Charlotina as an artist, which mirrors some of themes from the modelling under your other alias Ulorin Vex; why have these alias?
I created my first alias, Ulorin Vex, over 10 years ago when I was fairly new to the internet. I just needed a screen name and had several people tell me that it was better as a performer to use a pseudonym or stage name rather than use your legal name online, to avoid the risk of stalkers! Nowadays I’m not really bothered about having my legal name online, though I prefer to have it used more in conjunction with my art and illustration work rather than my modelling work. I like to keep the 2 identities somewhat separate, as representations of different aspects of what I do. I guess that’s part of the reason I chose Malady Charlotina to represent my artwork, in order to keep it somewhat separate from my modelling persona.
Maybe I just like to give names to different aspects of myself, sort of like the different characters I play!
If we focus in on the art, ‘Malady’ itself means a disease or ailment. Why did you choose Malady Charlotina to represent the creator of your art?
The Malady Charlotina persona actually has a fairly straightforward explanation (unlike poor Ulorin Vex, who gets asked that question so often and has no exciting or interesting story to tell!). It was back around 2006, I think, when I finally plucked up the courage to start sharing my artwork online more and decided I wanted to have it represented as a different part of me, rather than under the alias that was already fairly well known as a model. I was reading Micheal Moorcock’s “Dancers at the End of Time” trilogy, still some of my favourtie books.
I was so enamoured by the story at the time that I decided to use a play on the name of one of the characters, “My Lady Charlotina”, also know as the Eternal Concubine. It seemed to well represent many of my interests, including a focus I had at that time on slightly morbid medical themes such as amputated limbs, needles and wounded eyes.
Primarily, what do you want viewers to understand from your artwork?
That’s quite difficult for me to answer. I feel like a lot of my work is somewhat self-indulgent, that I’m trying to share things about myself, the way I think and other aspects of my personality that I’m often unable to share in other ways due to a frustrating and often crippling problem with anxiety and communicating with people. I definitely put a lot of myself into it. I hope that makes sense.
Looking more specifically into your work, you create what seem to be intricate self portraits filled with powerful symbols and suggestion that the viewer can read into, such as skeletons, horned photographers and two headed portraits. Do these images come from your imagination or are they linked to experiences?
Until recently, I think nearly everything I created was a self portrait, whether intentional or subconscious, including those pieces you mention. The two-headed portraits are often assumed to reference myself and my identical twin sister but they’re also referencing a struggle I feel with different aspects of my personality. It’s a mixture of imagination and experience. The piece with the photographer was actually commissioned by a photographer I’d previously modeled for who saw my artwork and wanted me to do something with the wonderfully wide open brief of “anything you want as long as you include my portrait somewhere”. I told him it would probably end up with nude women and be slightly odd but he was totally happy with that! I really enjoyed working with him, both as a model and an artist.
Is there a self portrait that you feel most connected to and if so, why?
At the moment I’d probably have to say my self portrait entitled “Every Me” that I finished in 2012. I’m usually deeply disappointed in most things I do not long after they are finished, but that particular piece represents a turning point when I started to feel more content with something I’d done, at least starting to look somewhat like the vision in my head anyway!
The eroticism within your pieces seem to be tinted with an underbelly of something darker…
I definitely have an interest in sex and sexuality and that includes it’s darker side, including various aspects of BDSM, fetishism etc.
Is there a usual process for how you would go about planning and creating a piece?
That really depends on whether I’m creating a personal piece for myself or a commission for a client, who has a more specific idea about what they want. For my own work I usually have a general idea or theme in mind but after that I like to improvise details as I go along. I really enjoy being spontaneous and not planning things out in detail too much. I’ve started using photo reference a lot more lately, particularly as I’ve started doing less self portraits and more using other people as models. That adds a whole new step to the creative process!
Looking to the future, describe what you see for yourself in 5 words.
Colourful adventures! Art! Sex! Tattoos!
To see more of Christiane’s artwork and modelling career, you can check out her website.