An amazing aerial silks duo from the flier perspective

Alex Charman makes up one half of an amazing aerial silks duo along with Sam Matthewman with Vertical Insanity Circus. She is also one of my current aerial teachers at Circobats Community Circus. I wanted to create a portrait of Alex and Sam’s duo performance and thought that since there are two of them, that I would create two pieces of artwork. I also decided to interview both Alex and Sam. So for this post I will focus on Alex and the first portrait of their duo. Coming soon will be the second portrait and a post focused on Sam.

‘Wrapped with each other’: Duo aerial silks portrait of Alex Charman and Sam Matthewman


I love taking class with Alex and trying all sorts of aerial apparatus including silks, lyra, trapeze and cloud swing. Alex does an excellent job catering for the varied skill levels in the class and keeping it fun. Currently, Alex is performing in Edinburgh with Sam in their show Hoopla International.

Hoopla International 2017 Edinburgh Promo Video

Only 24 hours until Shaz and Baz jet overseas to Edinburgh Fringe Festival to spread the benefits of the patented "Hoopla International Aerobic Workout". Massive thanks to Chantelle from the costumes to filming us you are the best! Here is our amazing promo video PLEASE SHARE it with all your friends to help support us on our biggest adventure yet! Vertical Insanity Circus CircoBats Community Circus

Posted by Hoopla International on Thursday, July 27, 2017

Videographer Chantelle Smeda


Side by side comparison of the reference image with the ‘Wrapped with each other’ artwork


Q&A with Alex:

What made you decide to try aerial?

I loved the idea of being up high and my mum encouraged me to try it!

What were the best qualities about some of your teachers when you were getting started?

I had some wonderful teachers who where very experienced which made their teaching methods so precise and technical. They were also extremely encouraging. Which is by far the best quality I have connected to in a teacher.

What is your favourite aspect of aerial?

Feeling like you are flying and doing things normal people can’t.

What is your favourite type of performance?

Silks or trapeze on a stage as a part of a full show. Something that will make the audience feel in awe

Has the things that you like about aerial changed from the time you started to now?

I can appreciate the strength and skill behind each skill a lot better

How did you get into teaching aerial?

Train, practice, write down small aspects that make the tricks work for you which could help others, do workshops to keep learning and improving

what do you hope your students get out of your classes?

That they learn that no matter what there ability is if they keep trying they can achieve anything they put there mind to

what is your favourite aspect of teaching aerial?

The sense of accomplishment that arises when a trick or skill is achieved

how is working in a duo different from performing a solo aerial act?

There is a lot more trust involved and team work to make sure the skills are safe and perfected

Reference Image

I chose the reference image of Sam supporting Alex in a back balance because I love the beautiful elongated shape that their bodies create. The contrast between the red silk and their predominantly black costumes adds to the drama of the performance shot. I also love their beautiful elegant hands and pointed toes in the pose. I only wish that Sam’s left foot was also in the shot to complete the composition, but this would have been an extremely difficult move to capture because of the length.

Photographer Nicholas Warn


Progress photos of ‘Wrapped with each other’

Artistic process

I created this piece at the Henley and Grange Art Society mixed media group. I used an easel and large white paper to allow for large free flowing application of marks. Michelle Stratton teaches the mixed media group and suggested that we try for a free and abstract style using Charcoal mixed with either ink or watercolour.

I wanted to focus on the general shapes of the figures rather than the intricate detail with charcoal. The red and black colour scheme was maintained from the reference image. I did this using red and black ink and red chalk pastels in addition to the charcoal.

Close up of ‘Wrapped with each other’ techniques


The background was created by dampening the paper with a spray bottle and then dripping black ink down the page. I avoided the area within the figures so that they would still stand out, but did not stop the drips if they naturally came into contact with the figure.

I like the effect of the black and red and white to create this dramatic abstract portrait.

If you would like a print of this piece click on the link below:

prints available


Alex and Sam will be performing next in the Perth world Fringe in Jan/Feb 2018