• brunelle dias

the way things are by Tāmaki-based painter brunelle dias compiles images of intimate moments held within family albums and personal documentation. In these figurative paintings dias uses touch, colour and pattern to depict her external world, embedding this with the complex emotional and psychological relationships with, and between, her subjects.

the way things are includes a series of large, unstretched canvases. Tacked across the gallery walls, these paintings appear skin-like, their raw edges uncontained. Significant life events such as dias’ infant baptism coexist alongside paintings of mundane present-day activities: her brother cleaning the toilet or her stepbrother reclining on the floor. The juxtaposition of acts of collective familial identification, with images of more unselfconscious tending to the body raises a recurring question in this body of work. What events or processes constitute one’s being?

In mango season, 2022, dias reproduces a photograph of her baptism in a church in Mumbai. The artist invites us into a private, exalted moment, yet this moment is also held at a distance. The face of each figure is obscured, half-turned away from the viewer so that we peer into the scene as observers, left to speculate on what relationship these figures have to one another, how the women are connected, what time has made of each one. The large scale of the work gives it a sense of monumentality; this is a painting to be absorbed in as much as it is a potent presence within the artist’s interior landscape.

Other domestic and quotidian scenes complicate a straightforward biographical reading. In Part 1: bread, butter, marmalade, 2022, dias’ mother is bent forward straightening her hair. Her dressing gown is a slick of jam spread across an ivory-smooth surface, her slipper a grey wedge emerging from the dark. On the canvas’ verso is an image of dias’s stepbrother and stepfather reclining in a living room. These scenes are unguarded, ordinary, drawn from the artist’s immediate surroundings in a more recent past: their vertiginous perspective gives away their smartphone origins. In transforming photography—both family album prints and digital phone snaps—into painting, dias partakes in a process of tending and safekeeping, revealing an archival longing.

In the fragmentary text, No Archive Will Restore You, writer Julietta Singh ruminates on past encounters with bodies that have impressed themselves onto her own. Responding to Antonio Gramsci’s call to compile an inventory of historical traces, Singh recounts her own moments of becoming: a near-miss that binds her and her potential assailant together in a moment of disaster; her desire to consume a piece of her mother as both an act of love and preservation; and her own subconscious and animal-like articulations of pain and loss. These moments, extracted from the detritus of the everyday, form an unstable corporeal archive. At its centre is the recognition that self-identity is not singular and finite but composed of intrusion and affects and feelings.

Gathering together multiple times and locations, the way things are assembles an archive, disrupting fixed ideas of identity, affiliation and home. Rather, these works record, and hold for safe-keeping, accumulated traces of experience and history inherited within the notion of self.


brunelle dias is an painter based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She completed her Masters of Visual Art at AUT, School of Art and Design, in 2021. She is interested in the intimacy between figure and ground and the interconnection between past and present. Recent exhibitions include The Local Migrant at RM Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau; Idyll at Page Galleries, Te Whanganui-A-Tara; and a revisit of introspective fieldworks: the everyday in flux at Nathan Homestead, Tāmaki Makaurau, all 2022.

This exhibition is generously supported by the family of Sarah Whiten in memory of Sarah Whiten.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Friday, 10am – 5pm
  • Saturday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm


  • 301 Montreal Street
  • The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building (access from The Arts Centre Market Square)
  • Ōtautahi, Christchurch, 8013