Fitzrovia Gallery is pleased to present I, Submerged: Paintings from Cabbage Beach, the debut London solo exhibition from Irish painter Cathy O’Reilly Hayes. I, Submerged: Paintings from Cabbage Beach is a homage to Hayes’ journey inwards, inspired by moments of awe and deep connection while floating in the ocean. In this collection of paintings and photographs, water is symbolic of deep investigation into her psyche, it acts as a catalyst to dissolve the constructed self and ultimately represents the freedom in stillness and letting go.
‘The base yellows, the contrasting daubs of green, blues and blacks. The touches of fiery reds and iridescent colours of parrot fish. To dive into this watery world of the Caribbean is to lose the self in nature, to discover the other: marine plants, the coral, the teaming shoals of rainbow fish.’ – Sue Hubbard, introduction to I, Submerged
Having lived in the Bahamas for many years, visiting often since, O’Reilly-Hayes’ connection to its waters sings through this latest body of work, inviting an introduction of more earthy tones to her signature bold palette and adopting the Chinese watercolour technique to explore the fluidity and softness of the setting. Underwater photography disturbs proprioception with texture and shape distorting the human body under the ocean’s ripple effect informing investigative paintings around physical form and metaphysical questioning. Hayes’ process included utilising video to record the motion of the body in water resulting in “an even greater dissolving of the body, suggesting a beautiful dissolution of [herself] into pure colour.”
“I found myself photographing my floating legs almost guiltily and saw something in the photographs that I liked. They became the jumping off point for this show. I loved the way the water created patterns with the light and the flesh, everything mingled and dissolved, there was a sense of oneness, perhaps as Sue Hubbard writes in this introduction “the amniotic fluid of the womb is the first ocean we encounter.”
– Cathy O’Reilly Hayes
Formal training and residencies at prestigious institutions such as Camberwell school of art, the Slade School of Fine Art and Cill Riallaig artists residency and her ongoing relationship with the Turps mentorship have been instrumental in expanding her artistic approach. The artist’s lack of conformity is evident in the unselfconscious movement between mediums and ideas I, Submerged: Paintings from Cabbage Beach, sees a much greater sense of scale in her paintings and a greater sense of freedom in both colour and paint application, also the introduction of photography to Hayes’ repertoire. From artwork to exhibition execution, there is a powerful autobiographical sense to I, Submerged.
With accompanying exhibition text from critic and poet Sue Hubbard, I, Submerged: Paintings from Cabbage Beach will be on view at Fitzrovia Gallery in Central London from 17-25 November.
‘Liquidity has long been connected to the feminine. The amniotic fluid of the womb is the first ocean we encounter. A place where we float and dream, safe within the watery cradle of the mothering body. Water is the life force.’ – Sue Hubbard
Cathy O’Reilly-Hayes is a contemporary artist based between Dublin, London and The Bahamas, whose work is a playful, spirited inquisition into society’s impediment towards hearing women’s voices. It also explores women’s relationship with themselves and examines the idea of reclaiming women’s power through art. Hayes’ tools include the restitution of iconic figures such as the Virgin Mary in contemporary scenarios, the recreation of powerful female Baroque artworks and re-imaging bygone stories and myths. Her new body of work finds a deeper connection to herself through both memory and lived experiences through floating in water. This change of direction emerged from connecting more to nature during and since the pandemic, from finding space and time to see both the past and present in a different light.
Hayes’ artistic training initiated in the Chelsea School of Art, but took on a central role when living in the Bahamas and formally retraining at a local art college. Her work was acquired into The D’Aguilar Foundation collection in the Bahamas. In 2019 she undertook The Summer Residency Program at the Slade School of Fine Art and Camden Arts Centre. In 2020, she completed a Masters in Painting at UAL Camberwell College of Art, London with the resulting work being exhibited extensively in London. She has also developed an ongoing relationship with Turps Banana and has recently exhibited with a London group of Turps artists.
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