Back in 2008, artist Catrin Huber visited Pompeii and Herculaneum for the very first time with her fellow BSR award-holders under the expert guidance of former BSR Director Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. This is when Catrin first fell in love with Roman wall painting.
Fast forward to 2018, and the seeds of an idea first sown during her BSR residency have come to fruition in the form of two site-specific contemporary art installations at Herculaneum and Pompeii.
The opening at Pompeii took place earlier in July in the Casa del Criptoportico. In the cryptoporticus itself, Catrin’s painted colonnade sits in dialogue with the Second Style wall paintings (inspired by episodes from the Trojan War) and incorporates replicas of everyday objects such as oil lamps.
The second installation can be found in the area of the house containing one of the very few ‘private’ baths documented in Pompeii.
A whole team of researchers was behind the project Expanded Interiors based at Newcastle University where Catrin is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art. The team included archaeologists Dr Thea Ravasi (Research Fellow at the BSR), Professor Ian Haynes (co-director of the BSR-Newcastle University Lateran Project) and Dr Alex Turner (Newcastle University). Their combined expertise was invaluable when it came to producing scans of the houses as well as the altered 3D replicas of Roman objects.
At the exhibition opening, speeches were given by BSR Honorary Fellow and Director of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei Massimo Osanna, as well as the Director of the contemporary art museum Museo Madre in Naples, who both discussed the value of an interdisciplinary dialogue when approaching archaeological sites.
This dialogue between the historic and the contemporary can also be seen in the exhibition in Herculaneum which opened earlier this year. Here the installation focuses on objects, with some artistically altered replicas of rarely-seen artefacts from the storerooms of Herculaneum. The chosen location was the Casa del Bel Cortile, a significant site in the history of the excavations as it was used as a small antiquarium when the site was under the direction of the renowned Amedeo Maiuri.
The Expanded Interiors exhibition rounds off a year of exciting initiatives for the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano and the Herculaneum Conservation Project to mark the 90th anniversary of the Scavi Nuovi initiated by Maiuri in 1927.
Both exhibitions are open to the public until January 2019.
Expanded Interiors is led by Newcastle University with kind support from the Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Parco Archeologico di Ercolano, Herculaneum Conservation Project and Art Editions North are project partners.
Photos by Sophie Hay.
If you are interested in Herculaneum more generally and wider issues of conservation, take a look at the recently published volume Protective Shelters for Archaeological Sites, the proceedings of a collaborative symposium which took place at Herculaneum in 2013.