Having immigrated to New Zealand from the UK in 1973, James Charlton gained his BFA from Auckland University, Elam School of Fine Arts in 1982. As a Fulbright recipient he completed his MFA at the State University of New York at Albany in 1986. Remaining in the United States for a further five years, he exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions throughout the USA, and was represented by Akin Gallery in Boston and John Gibson Gallery in New York. During this time he lectured in sculpture at the University of New Hampshire, Monserrat College of Art and the State University of New York at Albany. Since returning to New Zealand in 1991, Charlton lectured at the ASA School of Art before becoming the Curriculum Leader for Sculpture and Interactive Media at Auckland University of Technology. Paralleling shifts in his research he resigned from this position in 2005 to take up the role of Programme Leader in the newly established Interdisciplinary Unit.
While his practice is clearly located in visual arts context he engages a range of physical, digital and performative approaches in an exploration into the nature of the artefact as a field of activity in which the viewer is implicated. Strategically constructing credibility within the work Charlton consistently subverts the expectations he establishes as a means of questioning the role of artwork and the assumptions of the audience.
Current research projects with interactive digital object technologies centre around the integration of digital and physical content to question the definitions and inherent nature of time-based media.