Spartacus Chetwynd

Born (1973) in United Kingdom. She studied (1992-1995) Social Anthropology and History at the University College London before studying fine art at the Slade School of Art, London (1996-2000) and painting at the Royal College of Art, London (2002-2004). Recent solo exhibitions (selection): Odd Man Out, Sadie Coles (London, 2011); Cat Bus Puppet (installation), Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair (London, 2010); Spartacus Chetwynd, Massimo de Carlo (Milan, Italy, 2008); Help! I’m trapped in a Muzuzah Factory, Le Consortium (Dijon, France, 2008); Spartacus Chetwynd, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Zürich, Switzerland, 2007); Phantasie Fotostudio (with Esther Teichmann), Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch (Berlin, 2007). Recent group exhibitions (selection): British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet (Nottingham Castle / Hayward Gallery, London / Centre of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art and Tramway, Glasgow/ Plymouth, 2010-2012); Jarman Award 2010 (Whitechapel Gallery, London/ Arnolfini, Bristol/ Spacex, Exeter, 2010); Le Printemps de Septembre a Toulouse, les Abattoirs (Toulouse, France, 2010); Grand National, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium (Norway, 2010); Altermodern, Tate Triennial, Tate Britain (London, 2009). Recent performances: A Tax Haven Run By Women, Frieze Art Fair (London, 2010); The Visionary Vineyard: Dreaming of Free Energy, Hayward Gallery (London, 2011). In 2010 she was shortlisted for the Jarman Award for video artists.

Spartacus Chetwynd is a British artist whose practice intertwines performance, sculpture, painting, installation and video. Her performances resemble folk plays or street spectacles, involving a fluid troupe of friends and family members. Their improvised props, costumes and scenery often form sculptural installations in their own right. Addressing subjects as diverse as Adam and Eve in the poetry of John Milton (The Fall of Man, Tate Britain, 2006) or ancient and modern systems of democracy (Odd Man Out, Sadie Coles, London, 2011), the performances strike a darkly carnivalesque note and tread an ambiguous line between melodrama, arcane ritual and pop-cultural spoof.


Chetwynd’s Bat Opera paintings constitute an ongoing series which she began in 2002. Each work is painted on canvas paper and is on a small scale, measuring a uniform 15×20 cm. A number of paintings in the series present bats close up against saturnine skies in the manner of heroic portraiture. Other paintings portray fragments of quixotic architecture, reminiscent of Romantic landscape painting, and impressionistic skies populated by swarming, balletic colonies of bats. The works’ miniature scale is at odds with their invocation of the grand, theatrical form of opera and with the sublime scenes depicted. Chetywnd has commented on the series: “I think the reason that I create so many works along one theme might be a desire to reference film, as if the different canvases are like a storyboard or shot list. I am always trying to build a drama, a narrative”.


From the Bat Opera series 2007 Oil on canvas paper 19 x 24 cm, Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Giotto’s Play 2004-7 Performance (23 March 2007) at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich Puppet set, cardboard, papier-mâché and paint, wood Variable dimensions, Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon