Emma Summerton


‘A new series of transformative self-portrait photographs by Emma Summerton will be presented at Christophe Guye Galerie from September 6 – November 19, 2023. The solo exhibition, entitled “14 Spells (to save your life),” features 13 large-format unique photographs (as well as a grouping of Polaroid enlargements), embellisdhed with ink, watercolour and oil pastels, made during an escape to the Scottish wilderness and in New York City in the summer of 2023. Mixed in with her world-renowned signature style of surrealism, mythology, and the erotic is a return to her early creations and influences as a young woman in Australia just beginning to embark on a career that would quickly identify her as one of the leading fashion photographers of her time. Summerton has participated in one solo exhibition, “LANDED” in 2019 at Christophe Guye Galerie since their partnership began the previous year, including other group shows. A special publication will accompany this event.

Following a tumultuous and introspective year, Summerton spent a period of time working alone while revisiting and reflecting on the earliest imagery she created as an emerging talent. This intimate inquiry into her past, present, and future reconnected her to her original impulses on a much deeper level. “Using your art to understand yourself is key,” she explains. “Your work will always save you.”

The meditative essence underpinning this new series lacks none of the startling beauty, mischievous quality, and visual richness for which Summerton is known; these images expand and breathe with newfound awareness, vulnerability, and humor. Much influenced by the art and lives of female Surrealists such as Leonora Carrington, Vali Myers, and Remedios Varo, the work is infused with a stronger sensibility of her body, her inner characters, and the selves she has never lived. Communing with the vital, timeless energies of nature was a primal draw. This was sparked by a previous visit to Scotland, to an ancient estate surrounded by trees, rivers, and waterfalls. Seeking remoteness, Summerton returned there to find quiet, freedom, oneness, “an entrance to the Earth.” Gathering all these ideas together, she has produced a folkloric world strictly of her own design, pulling viewers in with a profound instinctive allure.

In turns wearing a latex bodysuit, a prosthetic pregnancy bump, red heels, a white dress, and a black hat, Summerton approaches her own representation as symbolic of these potent emotional states and self-interrogation, raising questions about love, birth, selfhood, the shadow, motherhood, the feminine, death, and the mystical.’

– Alex Zafiris

Alex Zafiris is awriter and editor based in New York. She is currently the writer-in-residence at the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media at Yale University, where she edits the journal Maquette. She has contributed to Bomb, The Paris Review Daily, The New York Times, Daisy Chain, Guernica, Tokion, Paper, and the United Nations.