From Tarquin the Proud to Luigi Ghirri: book publications this week

 

The breadth of research at the BSR has perhaps never been so evident as early this week with two significant book publications taking us from the sixth century BC to the twentieth century AD.

9789042934696

BSR Director Christopher Smith and Patricia Lulof’s edited volume The Age of Tarquinius Superbus was published by Peeters Publishers.

The volume constitutes the most substantial overview we have of the late sixth century in central Italy. It arises from a conference held at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome and the British School at Rome in 2013 and will be presented at the Istituto Studi Romani in May this year.

The volume Luigi Ghirri and the Photography of Place. Interdisciplinary Perspectives, co-edited by BSR Senior Research Fellow in Modern Studies and Contemporary Visual Culture Jacopo Benci with Marina Spunta (Leicester), has just been published by Peter Lang (UK) in the Italian Modernities series directed by Pierpaolo Antonello and Robert Gordon.

It is the first collection of scholarly essays to appear in English on the work of Luigi Ghirri (1943-92) one of the most significant Italian artists of the late 20th century. The book breaks new ground by approaching Ghirri’s work from different angles (including art history, theory of photography, literary and cultural studies, architecture, cartography, and place and landscape studies). Luigi Ghirri and the Photography of Place - book coverThe volume is the final outcome of a two-year British Academy/Leverhulme Trust funded research project Viewing and writing Italian landscape. Luigi Ghirri and his legacy in photography and literature which yielded two conferences held at the British School at Rome in 2013 (in collaboration with the MAXXI on the occasion of the exhibition Luigi Ghirri. Pensare per immagini 23 April—27 October 2013), and the University of Leicester in 2014.

Podcasts from the BSR conference can be found on the project website, and you can watch Jacopo give a lecture on Ghirri and architecture at Campo Space here.

A look back at the March Mostra 2017

In March the BSR gallery saw the first exhibition of work by our Fine Arts award-holders in 2017. Thanks to the fantastic photography of Roberto Apa, those who were unable to attend March Mostra can now take a look at the artwork exhibited below! You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of The Bridget Riley Art Foundation, Conseil des Arts et des Lettres Québec, The Incorporated Edwin Austin Abbey Memorial Scholarships, The Linbury Trust and the supporters of the Scholars’ Prize in Architecture.

 

Caroline Cloutier (Québec Resident)

_APA2379 copia

Hidden around the corner, digital print on adhesive vinyl, 275 x 310 cm

 

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

_APA2424 copia

The coloured cornice, Book, 30 x 25 cm; Coloured cornice, plaster and paint, dimensions variable

 

Neil McNally (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

Panoramica_senza titolo2 copia

Jacques Rancière stopped talking because someone fainted during his speech at the Rome conference on Communism at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (in the future there will be no painters only men and women who paint) / Jacques Rancière ha smesso di parlare perchè qualcuno svenne durante il suo discorso al Rome conferenc sul communismo e alla Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (nel futuro non ci saranno pittori, solo uomini e donne che dipingono), oil on canvas, 118 x 250 cm; Two venomous snakes concussed or killed by excitedly bouncing too high on a trampoline / Due serpenti velenosi concussi o morti, dopo aver saltato troppo alti su un trampolino,  soil from Lanuvium, paper, ants, alabaster, marble, oil, acrylic, cardboard, plastic, wood, wire, pigment, washing up liquid, tape, glue, wheat, soap, pine nuts, basalt, trampoline, arum italicum 466 x 499  cm.

 

Catherine Parsonage (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture)

_APA2408 copia

A portrait of friends, oil on gesso panel, 55 x 45 cm

 

Sinta Tantra (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

_APA2412 copia

The Piranesi effect (screen) tempera on linen 4 panels, 180 x 60 cm each

 

Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

_APA2405 copia

Glitch edit, oil and spray paint on canvas, 122 x 102 cm

 

All photos by Roberto Apa.

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Neil McNally

Tonight sees the opening of our annual March Mostra and there is much anticipation around the BSR to see the new works by our current resident artists and architects produced over the last three months. To round off our Meet the Artists blog series, we bring you Neil McNally, Abbey Fellow in Painting.

Neil McNally has a conceptual approach to painting that questions the fundamental roots of the medium. Using the briefest of gestures and brushstrokes, McNally often declares a work complete at the first available opportunity. Believing that there is now little new that can be done with painting, McNally is engaged in the medium’s endgame, playing the final moves again and again without ever reaching its conclusion: ‘I do not believe I can invent something new in art or painting because whatever I would want to invent already exists.’ Rather than invent something new, McNally’s restrained brushstrokes leave a canvas open and full of possibilities. Like an unfinished sentence, his works leave the viewer guessing what might happen next.

“I am an author, dreamweaver, visionary. Plus actor. Whilst in Rome I have been swimming the Tiber, learning Latin and studying mime. During the day I create masterpieces. International scholars of renown admire my exquisite works. In the evening I go to the opera or the ballet. Seeking inspiration and distraction from the rigours of artistic creation I sometimes visit a nearby church to take in the divine architecture or to listen to Baroque music played on period instruments. Today I share a small photo essay of new work, new friends and new inspirations”. (Neil McNally)

Neil McNally, 'The Winter is Cold'

9. doghouse

10. Dream car

 


Neil’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

 

 

 

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Vivien Zhang

For this instalment of the March Mostra Meet the Artists blog series, we spoke to Vivien Zhang, our 2016-17 Abbey Scholar in Painting. Here Vivien reflects upon the progression of her work since the December Mostra, her approach to the upcoming March Mostra, and her projects for the next three months at the BSR.

VZ

Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Vivien Zhang’s work looks at the idea of repetition and painting as a site for assemblage. Context-specific motifs, such as the mathematical shape gömböc and aluminium foil, enact as well as interrupt fields of repetition. Layering in Zhang’s work often simulates algorithms found in digital imaging software – an approach influenced by our ways of engaging with visual material today. Zhang explores through her work our expanding accessibility to images and information today, our shifting authorship and authority over such materials, and our increasing re-identification as trans-border inhabitants.

This is your second BSR Mostra – have you noticed a significant change in your work or your approach to your work since the December Mostra?

Yes, definitely. I think my work for this Mostra will be more experimental, more unfamiliar for myself. Whereas for the last Mostra, it was the first time so I was still getting to know what the BSR is and what Rome is like. So partly, I think the December Mostra was more like a presentation of my known practice, whereas for this one I might be able to unpack what I do a little bit and introduce things I am interested in that I have found in Rome.

When I look at your work, I see all these different layers and I have to really study it to work out which layer is on top and how they are woven into each other. Can you talk me through the process of building up a piece of work?

Someone recently asked me how much of the painting would I know before I first start one. I know I progress a painting through the different layers. I don’t start with a vision of what the final painting will look like, but I usually know which basic shapes and forms I would use in a work – for example the pebbles in this work [see image below]. So the first move here is the background in silver, and then I add these bands which are images that haven’t properly loaded on the internet. The third move is the addition of this math shape, the gömböc. The scientist behind the gömböc originally tried to find a pebble as a natural physical example of a gömböc; that’s why the pebbles are here. The process of thinking about the space [on the canvas] happens while I am doing the work, instead of it being predetermined and knowing how it will look at the end.

VZPainting

Since you met Gabor Domokos, one of the creators of the gömböc, have you revisited the shape and have you been looking at it in a different way?

Definitely! [Shows the gömböc] They manufacture this shape in different materials, and this is a new synthetic plastic which is cheaper, lighter, and more affordable for students. It always rocks back to that stable point. If you play around with it for a little bit, it doesn’t roll for as long as I had hoped it would before returning to its stable point – the inventor did say that the heavier the material is, the better the demonstration. When I met him – for the first time in January this year – he told me lots of political stories that surrounded his research and the production of the shape, and that was incredibly fascinating, adding another dimension to the shape.

Is there any particular site or gallery or space in Rome that has made a particular impression on you?

That’s a question I might have to answer after the BSR! Because at the moment, everything is captivating… But I did go around yesterday, looking for something I want to focus on next term, and that is the flood markers around Rome. Rome has been a long victim of flood and since the thirteenth century flood markers have been put up all around Rome to mark various catastrophic ones – this one outside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. They’re like markers of history. All the buildings and sites in Rome are markers of history, and they are so because they are allowed to survive in the city, to remain. These flood markers, on the other hand, are symbols of a particular happening, marking a relationship to the rest of the standing history of Rome. What’s more, they were actively placed and were made to have a kind of elevated status – are they like commemoration plaques? What’s their relationship to the rest of history, the city and its people? This is something that’s interesting to me.

Gavin Brown is a gallery that’s made an impression on me. It’s a commercial gallery in a dilapidating church in Rome. Using the site as an exhibition space is quite challenging. Obviously for any artist who has a show in that space, it’s very impressive and an exciting opportunity.

Have you got an idea of where you’ll be in the gallery and do you know what the other artists are going to show, and have you thought about how your work will interact?

I think we make a point in every Mostra meeting that this is a show without an overarching exhibition theme, but there have been interesting new conversations. For example, this term, we have Sinta [Tantra, Bridget Riley Fellow] who is an artist who works much more with abstraction and Caroline [Cloutier, Québec Resident] who works with trompe l’oeil. I feel like I identify with their works much more perhaps than works in the last term. But last term was very challenging in a good way, because I usually don’t show with figurative artists. The context gave a new twist to my work and maybe to the way people read my work.

It will be interesting to see this Mostra after last term, as it will be so different with the December Mostra all being figurative painting.

Last term the artists were all very ‘painterly’ and the conversations painters have amongst ourselves are quite distinct, just for example the mere fascination with a colour or medium, talking about how ‘buttery’ or ‘creamy’ paint can be, the painterly gesture, and so on. But just this morning I was listening to Morgan [Gostwyck-Lewis, Scholars’ Prize in Architecture] talk about his work and how he wants to activate the exhibition space and use his findings with the Etruscan tombs, and the kind of bands in tombs used as horizons. Again that’s really interesting and makes you think more about what you’re looking at, absorb his perspective and approach and then use it in your own work and when it comes to staging the show.

Have you found it a challenge keeping a balance between the BSR and travelling for meetings or exhibitions?

It’s difficult and I think everyone is trying to balance the opportunity of being in Rome, in the BSR, and the other opportunities that come around. I think at the end of the day I just go organically with what is on offer. For my Pescara show [at SOYUZ], the curator originally found my work somewhere and then learned that I was in Rome coincidentally, so it was nice to piece something together. With the Milan art fair that’s coming up later this month, the gallery applied knowing that I was in Rome but with no expectations. And when we got in, it’s like wow, that’s a really nice addition. It will be nice to travel to Milan and see it as a tourist but also to do work there. Also Pescara would probably be at the bottom of my list for places to visit as it’s a new town, it’s been bombed during war and all the architecture there is from the 70s, but when I visited I received a real sense of the Italian lifestyle – I was there hanging out with Italian artists, curators and architects, and just socially you experience a different totality.

Your award is nine months long; do you think that the knowledge that you’ll be here for that amount of time affects the way you work, given that you can plan ahead as to how you’re next going to use your time in Rome?

Yes, definitely, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad – taking things at a leisurely pace maybe. But I think because of the nine-month timeframe, I can keep my normal practice going which I don’t want to leave aside, but also absorb this new place. Nine months seems long but it isn’t actually. I can imagine that for the people here for three months, it might be almost like a teaser to Rome.

Is there anything else you would like to to say about the work coming up for the Mostra?

I am interested to see, because there is so many site specific works – Caroline and Morgan’s –putting together the show will be a very different process. In December, it was a case of bringing all the work to the gallery, swapping and changing and seeing how things fits together. This time we have two pieces that have to be in specific positions, and then everything else has to be coordinated according to these two works – which I think could make it simpler. It’ll be a good challenge again, because I have never worked in an exhibition with very big site-specific and trompe l’oeil work. The test is maybe how to install mine and Catherine’s paintings on canvas: when these pieces sit next to larger installations, paintings can become decorative touches or appear very introspective, so the challenge is to avoid that problem.


Vivien’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson.

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists … Catherine Parsonage

The March Mostra is drawing closer, and in today’s blog we take a closer look at the practice of Catherine Parsonage (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture). This will be Catherine’s second BSR mostra, so we asked her to elaborate on how her BSR residency has impacted upon her work so far.

CatherineParsonage

Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Catherine Parsonage uses painting and sculpture to pursue the ultimate reduction of the female form, condensing the body to its most elementary essence through single deft lines. The drawings and paintings carefully choreograph the body as the fashion photographer might its subject, creating a distilled mise-en-scene, where the subtle shifts in weight and angle are imbued with movement and poise.

This is your second BSR Mostra – would you say your practice has changed much since the December Mostra? If so, how?

I think that my practice shifted very soon after I arrived at the BSR and has continued to do so since the December Mostra. All of the artists at the BSR during autumn had very particular approaches to painting and our conversations and time together encouraged me to approach painting in a way that more clearly reflects direct experience.

Since being in Rome, what has made a particular impression on you that has been reflected in your work?

The collection of Etruscan artefacts in Villa Giulia, particularly the ceramics and mirrors have definitely been reflected in my work, (as I already use very linear, reduced lines to depict the body.)

catherineparsonagevillagiulia

Etruscan mirror exhibited in the Villa Giulia. Photo by Catherine Parsonage.

Can you tell me a bit about the pieces you will be showing in the March Mostra?

The March Mostra is collaboratively curated so the final pieces are still slightly unknown but I think I will be showing a selection of drawings with a photograph, and then potentially a painting. It will be the first time I have exhibited a photograph alongside other works so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Have you been experimenting with different materials or techniques since being in Rome?

Yes I have been part of a printmaking group in Piramide for my first four months in Rome, it is the first time I have done any traditional etching and it has had a huge impact on my painting; I hope to continue etching throughout the rest of the residency.

How do you choose which pieces to show?

For this mostra particularly I am choosing pieces to test out some new combinations and modes of framing and showing.

Have you started to think about new ideas to work with for next term?

I have some longer term projects which I have been working towards for next term including a project in stained glass and ceramics.


Catherine’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to our six resident artists and architects who will be exhibiting in the March Mostra, opening Friday 17 March. The first awardee in focus is Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis, this year’s Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner, who here discusses the project he is working on for the Mostra.

MeetTheArtists_MorganLewis_Image

Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis investigates the relationship between architectural ornamentation and figurative representation in Etruscan art. His research focuses on the elements that connect them, through the use of photography, writing and paint. Lewis is an architect whose projects have primarily been for the arts and education sector, and whose research has focused on the representation of landscape.

First of all, can you summarise your project?
I’ve been looking at architectural painting and ornamentation in a set of early Etruscan tombs (8-6th C BC). The Etruscans are an iron-age culture transforming into a quite sophisticated, quite internationally embedded urban culture, getting the hang of making cities, writing and new forms of art with a lot of important iconographic development. They retained a lot of iron age conceptions, and they’re making these rooms which are quite interesting because they conflate a number of different architectural features, and they are relatively early in the classical tradition, so that’s also interesting. I don’t think you could claim that they are the origin of specific architectural ideas, they certainly get things like decent columns and four cornered rooms from more-established cultures, but they are using them in a way that I think is quite telling of where and how those architectural motifs originally emerged and certainly how they can be deployed, and that’s quite useful for an architect to think about [as] these can be quite difficult things to articulate and subjects to get a handle on. So, in the set of tombs that I am looking at I have focused on a particular architectural motif which is a figurative horizon line that then becomes something that we may describe as something more ornamental. The project is really research about this process more than it is a project about making a piece.

Why the interest in Etruscans? Where did the inspiration for this project come from?
I’m not particularly interested in the Etruscans as a topic in themselves. I guess I found the rooms they were making just inherently appealing and I had a hunch they were doing quite strange things, and I still feel they’re doing quite a lot of strange things that I haven’t really got in to – this movement between what is figurative and what is repeated as a pattern and how that relates to the way it’s arranged spatially is quite complex. They’re very loose with their boundaries – for example a sea motif that very quickly becomes a setting for a real sea scene – and that is quite unusual, to jump back and forth so fluidly like that and to do it so seemingly effortlessly. And I presume that that’s because they were in a culture that was being forged incredibly quickly.

Is this the first time you’ve done a project like this? Are you used to producing work for mostre and is the process at the BSR very different?
I have made stuff for a mostra before as a student – this is quite a big part of architectural education. Usually you’re making miniaturised versions of a hypothetical building and therefore you are concerned about how it looks as a piece, but really it’s a model and you almost want to avoid thinking about it too much as a piece, because you can then fall in love with it to the detriment of what you’re modelling, which is perhaps a kind of endemic problem more widely found in society in fact, but here, if you know the end point is a mostra, you want whatever you make to read as a thing in itself. As a way of doing research, that might strike one as odd, because perhaps one might think the natural outcome of a research project like this would be a paper. But it’s nice because it means that I get a studio and the opportunity to address the material aspect of topics. and most of all because you are forced to do things in a different way.

Do you know which space you’re going to have in the gallery?
Yes, I really needed to think about the space and know what the dimensions would be before I could start making the installation – I couldn’t just make something and put it in there.

Has doing this project given rise to new ideas? Have you thought of new projects to pursue beyond the BSR?
Yes, in terms of my analysis of this topic I feel like I’m just starting. Even in looking at a specific topic, such as a particular motif in a limited number of Etruscan tombs, I feel, there is obviously a huge amount more that could be done. In terms of transforming it into something instrumental, I think it’s always interesting to think about the origins of the architectural motifs as a way of treating space and it will somehow feed in to later work. I think perhaps I had a broader interest in the interior use of colour before I arrived which has remained latent in looking a specific moments in the tomb during the time I have been here, but it would be great to revisit that in the context of what I have been looking at. The point is that colour is always spatial, so perhaps this research is one way into rethinking that topic. I think that’s something I would really like to do next.

Have you had the chance to speak to our resident Etruscan expert, [Director] Christopher Smith, about your topic?
Yes, we had a great meeting. He was very good to talk to about it. I think because he has a brilliant overview of the field and although he is not an artist himself, he has a good sense of what art is for and how art works, so I think he tried to understand where I was coming from and where an architect could play a role.

Has your time at the BSR changed the way that you work or approach a project?
I think the BSR has great resources; the library is fantastic, and you can visit all the relevant sites. I think it would be impossible for me to do this kind of research in London. So in that sense, that is great. In terms of changing the way I work, it’s possibly too early to tell. Three months is a short time and it’s quite difficult to know if any momentum can be sustained from this project. Maybe it will. What’s really nice here is that you get the chance to talk to a lot of people who work in other fields and so that might feed in to future work.

MeetTheArtists_MorganLewis_Image2


Morgan’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson

Transnationalizing Modern Languages at the BSR

The BSR is collaborating on a transformational AHRC Beacon project Transnationalizing Modern Languages, which is devising new approaches to fortify Modern Languages in response to decline in UK provision for the discipline. This project challenges the tradition of containing the study of modern languages within discrete national boundaries by investigating cultural exchange within communities and individuals across time and space.

In October, we hosted a three-day conference Transnational Italies: Mobility, Subjectivities and Modern Italian Cultures examining the mobility of Italian culture through patterns of emigration and immigration, and its interactions with other cultures across the globe.

In this video you can hear the opening talks by BSR Director Professor Christopher Smith, and conference organisers Professor Charles Burdett (Bristol), Professor Loredana Polezzi (Cardiff), and Dr Barbara Spadaro (Bristol).

See the TML website to hear further recordings from the conference including roundtable sessions and keynote lectures by Professor Ruth Ben Ghiat (New York) and Professor Dame Marina Warner (Birkbeck).

The conference was accompanied by a participatory exhibition BEYOND BORDERS. Transnational Italy (curated by Viviana Gravano and Giulia Grechi), displaying research processes and results. The BSR gallery was curated as a domestic environment, a metaphor for how language and culture offer us space to ‘inhabit’ our lives and our relations with others.

Later on in November, two of the organisers, Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi, gave a lecture at the British Academy exploring how a new focus on the web of interconnections between cultures is enriching our understanding of language and space.

 


For further information about Transnationalizing Modern Languages visit the project’s website: www.transnationalmodernlanguages.ac.uk


Text by Tom True (Assistant Director)
Videos by Gianfranco Fortuna
Photos by Carolina Farina (Routes Agency)