Chloe Summerhayes | Swamp Opera: {Suite} Wellington

3 - 27 July 2024

Swamp Opera explores the carnal and performative facets of life. Like representational painting, theatre is deceptive in nature. The common proscenium stage mimicking the picture frame, serves as a window between the audience and the drama. Informed by older, less sophisticated technologies of theatre such as drop cloths, trapdoors and candle light, I reference the clumsiness inevitable in bodily experience. The mysterious and miasmic, seemingly at odds with the spot-lit spectacle, are threaded throughout this series. Countless layers of paint are buried or collapsed into obscurity and floating to the top are figures, objects and scenery fixed into position. The impetus for this series was the constant tension and energy arising from the subconscious battle between nature and artifice.


Worshipping festivities of Dionysus became the initial driving force behind western theatre. The Dionysian forces of nature can be monumentally powerful and oppressive. Rendered figures are frequently entombed or in such a state of decay, they become part of the ground. In some works, the background or scenery becomes the personified subject. Each work is approached with the blindness of being submerged in the chthonian murk of swampy water. As if wading through the grey sludge oil paint can so easily become, there is never a clear view to resolve and subsequent layers of paint are applied with slight trepidation. Leaning into intuition, I allow each work to lead the way and remain subject to change throughout the painting process. 

Chloe Summerhayes, 2024

Chloe Summerhayes is an artist born and based in Ōtautahi. In 2022 she completed an MFA at Ilam School of Fine Arts. Recent exhibitions include Unearthly Delights, {Suite} Gallery, Auckland, 2023, Stray, Chambers Gallery, Ōtautahi (2023); Dancing by Myself, Shepperson Education Centre, Waiheke Island (2022); and Re Surface, SOFA Gallery, Ōtautahi (2021). Utilising drawing and painting methods, Summerhayes explores mutable ideas of temporality and bodily consciousness. 

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