December Mostra 2019 / Meet the artists… Holly Davey

As we approach the December Mostra, we are taking a closer look at the individual practices of our resident artists. Our first interview is of Holley Davey, our Creative Wales-BSR Fellow.


In the past two months you spent some time researching the archive of stage sets at Cinecittà Studios, reflecting on the connection between sculpture, architecture and the lens. You are interested in exploring the relationship between the constructed reality and the viewpoint it needs to be seen from as well as the abstract architectural forms that are created behind the set itself, to hold the two-dimensional fabricated reality up. How are you developing this research during your time in Rome?

I have been developing this research through acts of looking; taking photographs, spending time in a number of archives, at Cinecittà studio’s researching film sets and visiting a number of roman ruins.

From this looking and researching, I have been particularly interested in the geometrical constructed forms behind the film set façade and I started making a series of small models, working with different materials such as tracing paper, printer paper, photographs, wood, plaster and fabric. I’m really trying to understand the space and forms of these constructions and how materials can inform this. I am fascinated by the rub between these constructed forms needing to support the façade but in the same moment the sense that it is all about to collapse.

Holly Davey Research image

Holly Davey, Research Image, 2019

As part of my research, I have been looking at the photographic archive of Agnes and Dora Bulwer, starting with their images of roman archaeological ruins. Very quickly, I became fascinated by the photographs with a single female figure in the frame. I worked with these photographs, cutting out the female figure, creating a white silhouette and then using these abstracted figurative forms to create the façade of their identity.

A lot of my work is coming together with the writing I am doing around these fragmented elements and the process of working with an archive. My research has become an archive of thoughts and potential ideas so I have also started to use some time here to think about how I enable the audience to engage with the work and the different ways I can present the research.

It has been a very playful period using new materials, taking creative risks, even if, for quite a lot of the time, I feel a bit uncomfortable about what I am doing because I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone and beyond the parameters of my practice. This is a conscious decision on my part, I see it as an amazing opportunity to try something different so I can discover something new about my work, my process and myself as a person.

Holly Davey, Cut out number 29, Photograph by Dora Bulwer, Bulwer Collection, British School of Rome, 2019

Holly Davey, Cut out number 29, Photograph by Dora Bulwer, Bulwer Collection, British School at Rome 2019

Martina Caruso, BSR Assistant Director for Fine Arts, Architecture and Creative Industries, introduced you to the figures of two photographer sisters, who worked for many years at the British School at Rome under the Direction of Thomas Ashby and whose memory has been canceled from the archive of the Academy. How is this amazing discovery having an impact on your practice?

I have always been interested in female voices within history and in previous commissions, I’ve researched the absence of them in archives, libraries, collections. I am always looking for traces, seeking out where are the women in this place, where are the female voices, how are they being acknowledged, how are they being seen by an audience, by the outside world. The impact of discovering the Bulwer sister’s echoes with my early photographic work, using the camera lens as a mirror to life. Seeing their works has had a huge impact on me as they are amazing photographers, photographing archeological ruins in a very interesting way and there is very little known about them. I have been curious to research their life together in Rome during the late 1800’s, to understand their wider narrative such as where were they living? who did they know? What were they reading? Trying to find out who were they?

For me the amazing thing about working with archives is that you are looking at the fragmented  evidence of existence, you get glimpses of people, you find tiny scraps of information that you can start to piece together, and it seems you’re almost getting a picture of them but then they disappear.  This is very exciting to me as you never see the whole.  This translates into my work, in which you see a collection of fragments and the audience can then create a version of the whole for themselves.

Holly’s work will be exhibited alongside the other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 6 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 14 December 2019, closed Sundays.

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser) . 

Holly Davey Studio at British School of Rome, 2019

Holly Davey, BSR Studio, 2019