A look back at the June Mostra…

In June we saw the final Mostra of our 2017–18 programme, in which our seven Fine Arts award-holders put together an exhibition of works produced during the course of their residencies. Here we bring you a selection of photographs of works from the exhibition. You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

Josephine Baker (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Yusuf Ali Hayat (Helpmann Academy Resident)

 

Damien Meade (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

 

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Stanzas of recollection

This blog comes from Pele Cox the inaugural John Murray / Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Creative Writing Resident (October-November 2017; April-May 2018). In this post Pele shares with us the poem that she wrote and performed at the June Mostra.

I was asked to write this poem by Marta, Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator, as a homage to the artists for the recent Mostra. I decided to write a collage, using snatches from the favourite poems that some of the artists sent me. These are interwoven with my feelings of loss and gain at my own departure from the British School at Rome, which is communicated as a series of rooms (stanze).

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Stanzas

I

Leave the door ajar.

Cicero says if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

But give me a studio and a courtyard.

Leave the door ajar and let me enter in

 

where

words can bloom

mid stripped walls, the blue guitar,

where the mosaic hours

burn

the music of gravel and of rain.

 

My love is of a birth as rare 

As is for object strange and high

it was begotten by despair

Upon impossibility.

 

Leave the door ajar

let me look inside

a sight within

where

words can bloom

mid thorns and scattered chair

 

 

II

I have a room of my own,

With twin steel nests, a desk, the curved chair with wings.

My knees to the books and back again,

the trees beyond and studios beneath,

and artist strange and rare.

 

You walk in. “This room is not going to last.”

We are caretakers of its ending: a shutter,

a camera, exposed.

I reach for the chair again

where I sat for Pushkin, for Sholokov,

where I sat for the things I knew would pass

on.

 

Lady disturbed in her bed-

your thoughts of it?

Light is it a body

 

Leave the door ajar

and let me enter in.

 

In the smoke after twilight

on a milk white steed

Michelangelo indeed

could have carved out 

your features.

 

where the mosaic hours

burn

the music of gravel and of rain.

 

 

III

When I put my hands on your body

on your flesh I see the history 

of that body.

 

Leave the door ajar

and let me enter in.

 

Not just the beginning of its forming 

in that distant lake

but all the way beyond its ending.

 

This room is not going to last

we are the inmates at

its ending.

 

And yet I quickly might arrive

where my extended soul is fixed.

 

It is finished now

this room,

a stanza of recollection.

 

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Text by Pele Cox, photo by Antonio Palmieri.

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists… Josephine Baker

As we approach the June Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our penultimate interview is with Josephine Baker, our Sainsbury Scholar. 

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You often address political currents or notions of ethical value in your work, in particular the symbols surrounding them. What ideas have you been exploring in this installation?

Last month I was working in the gallery downstairs on an installation called Night Music, elements of which I am showing in the June Mostra. The first central image you encounter – or rather can’t avoid – on the back wall, almost looming over the landscape of the installation, is a work made from chalk on bricks: a circle of stars, replicating those of the EU flag.

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This work, and how it is placed amongst the other works in the gallery, is for me about contextualizing a universally-recognised symbol; forcing it out of its abstract value, into being in some way more dynamic, fluid, physical. By altering its form, colour, materiality and scale, I hope to put into question not just the associations attached to the flag, but also to question the structure of the image itself. For example, by rendering this symbol in black and white, the stars are in some way reintroduced to the naturalism that they represent, as an image of a constellation in the night sky. Its symmetry and ‘perfection’ then becomes – in this particular context as well as the context of my work more generally – about addressing an idealization and politicization of nature, or natural form. I ask myself: To what extent is that tendency a far cry from the symbolism surrounding the political idea of the unity of peoples? The symbol strikes up a bodily sensation in the room; the physicality of the image for me is in some way connected to the physicality of nation states and the geopolitics of Europe.

I think there are so many ways to interpret this work, but when as an artist you use an image this laden with identification, you inevitably come up against many concerns: perhaps the worry that others will assume that you are attempting an acute political commentary, or expressing your own personal political views, about Brexit for example. You ask yourself whether it will be read as propaganda, or how easy it really is to manipulate these images free from any political agenda. I guess this work will inevitably pose these questions to a viewer too, which could potentially be a really positive thing.

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How does this work relate to or affect the other parts of the installation?

I want this work to be a focal point for the installation – to see to what extent we can confront symbolic language, to understand how much of a stake it has in its environment, how persuasive, how overbearing. Essentially, to ask to what extent it irreconcilably changes the way that you view everything else inside the space. How does this particular work give agency to or withhold power from the much quieter pieces? In this sense to me it is an obvious metaphor for the politics of power, and the unequal and haphazard relations between the different objects and images in the space. Yet the circle of stars of the EU flag stands as a symbol of unity, a perfect constellation of elements brought together. So perhaps the question also is: How do the works in this room create a similar constellation, addressing in themselves and their relations both the political idea and the emotional experience of unity?

The potential affective quality of installation for me is to place or position the viewer where space is not a fact, or an answer, but always a kind of question: Where am I? Where you find yourself is inextricably linked to notions of identity. The question ‘Who am I?’ would not exist without the place. I attempt to create environments that challenge the ‘where’ and therefore the ‘I’.

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Your sculptures are literally silent, yet the things you represent – from pipe organs to natural disasters, or debates about the EU… – are inherently loud, both physically and metaphorically. How does the work address this seeming contradiction?

This is why the installation is called Night Music, to play with this contradiction through an ambiguity: Is ‘night music’ a nocturne, the sound of the night, an impression of it, or simply the idea of quietness, even silence? You can consider the night to be the exact opposite of the cacophony of day – the night when, as a human being, nearly everything is sleeping. I am interested in sounds being interruptions in the silence of nighttime, like perhaps how the sculptures intervene or punctuate the low-lit gallery space.

This body of work started as the idea of making an installation that plays with the same forms, tempos and relationships as make up a musical composition. Every instrument is a sculpture – they all do different things. There are some constants, refrains, some pick out and build the melody. Every piece has a part to play. Together they work to create a unified sound – be it harmonious or disjointed, eliciting calm or disquiet, but somehow unified. I’m interested in how the space or landscape of an installation can repeat, ripple, swell, in a similar way.

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In the work there is also a nod to the distribution of sound in, say, the space of a baroque church. Upon entering a church in Rome you almost immediately encounter the edifice of the pipe organ, but you rarely hear it being played. Often the loudest thing inside the church is ironically the voice telling you to keep quiet. But considering the pipe organ, there is this contradiction between its grandeur, its presence in the space (you only see the front pipes – there are often hundreds if not thousands of pipes hidden from view, in different corners and crannies) and its latent chaos or harmony, the sound it can produce.

I want the environments I make to propel the viewer into a sensual experience of the things that exist within it. A musical instrument is such an example of a sensual combination of the spiritual and the utilitarian, which is often the tension I want to explore in the sculptures. They are tactile, they reference function and are made of utilitarian and standardised materials. The pipe organ is made out of plumbing piping. Most have handles that suggest the objects’ use in some kind of ceremonial practice that is never enacted. It’s about the attempt to understand the noise of the work’s political currents through this metaphor, where what is seemingly absent or invisible is nonetheless completely there, overwhelming the silence.

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Josephine’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Installation photos by Roberto Apa.

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists… John Robertson

As we approach the June Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our penultimate interview is with John Robertson, our Abbey Scholar in Painting.

John Robertson

Photo by Antonio Palmieri

 

Pasquale, 42 x 29.7cm, leaves, paper, panel

Pasquale, 42 x 29.7cm, leaves, paper, panel

Your practice seems to have changed during the past months. You have introduced into your work references to the Italian 15th Century. Leaves, referring to Primavera by Botticelli, which you saw in Galleria degli Uffizi, now feature in your work. Tell us more…

The leaves are not specifically from Botticelli. I made the first leaf painting at Easter, when some leaves literally blew into the studio from outside. It was after this that I visited Florence and saw the Botticelli paintings including Primavera. You can definitely go to Botticelli from the leaf works if you want, but you can also go to someone like Ben Nicholson, to a kind of white modernist relief, or to a tradition of botany studies. I like this kind of openness in work, something you can travel with but not necessarily to a fixed destination.

That said, I do think going to Florence changed my palette, those Botticelli’s and the Fra Angelico’s, everything kind of greyed or ochre-d out when I came back. There’s a closer tonality in my work now, it’s less graphic and more…hmmm…. I don’t know… misty.

For this June Mostra what work will you present?

For my final three months I made 20 A3 panels and I have been ploughing through them. This time things are a lot more straight forward, a lot more like ‘straight-up’ painting.

What made you choose this specific size and scale?

I made this decision after the last Mostra. I wanted to use the last term to make a series of studies because I’d made a couple right at the end of the last one that were becoming ‘painterly’ somehow. I had a sense that they could go somewhere else, that they could feel more like paintings than collages. So it was something I wanted to try to work out, and I wanted the working out to be on the surface of the works, so I had this idea to make a group of small paintings and keep covering them as I go. There’s a lot more texture on the new works as a result, more layers, you can see that there’s paper underneath the final image that has been covered over. I didn’t see any reason to make them bigger, and I like the smallness actually, they’re kind of compressed or something, they’re intimate, you have to get close. Also they feel like pages, and I like that too.

You have now been in Rome for eight months. What effect has this experience had on your work?

Increasingly I’ve realised that it’s the studio time that has made the biggest difference to my practice. A few months in I started cutting out brush strokes and I felt really weird about it, it’s so amateur and crafty, a bit Blue Peter.  But it led to making these small works that are more complicated with complex layering. This change has really just come from being able to have so much studio time. There’s something about time in all this, a slower making that demands a longer looking, and really just having enough of a rhythm in the studio that the work gets a momentum of its own and kind of takes over. It’s a little animistic actually, and you sound like a bit of a lunatic, but really it feels like I’m just trying to listen to what the work wants, like there’s an image there already, hiding in these bits of paper, and i’m just trying to let it exist.

Then there’s the time the leaves blew in the studio at Easter, and the day after when Tomaso visited and wrote his email address on a piece of paper.

Tomaso, 42 x 29.7 cm, Tomaso writing his email address, paper on panel

Tomaso, 42 x 29.7 cm, Tomaso writing his email address, paper on panel

Of course Rome has affected the work too, and it’s possible to link my work and practice to it. I found out that in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria (with the Bernini Ecstasy of Saint Teresa) all the marble pillars that look like one piece of marble are actually collaged pieces of marble, cut along the veining so that you can’t tell, and patch-worked to look like one piece. This is a pretty common practice, and it’s easy enough to see how that’s connected to my work. And the paintings themselves are a lot more baroque, I mean, everything’s a flourish or an arabesque, they could easily be close-up bits of a baroque frame or something.

All at Sea (for V), 42 x 29.7cm, Acrylic, paper, panel

All at Sea (for V), 42 x 29.7cm, Acrylic, paper, panel

So yes, Rome is there, in the work. But, I mean…so is the courtyard of the BSR, all those cigarette breaks, moving around the green plastic chairs to sit in the sun or shade depending on the weather, the poetry I’m reading, songs I’m listening to, friends I’ve made, red wine, for sure red wine, I even have some works that are pieces of paper I’ve used to mop up red wine spillages in the studio after hours, the studio, it’s all happened in the studio. It’s all in there somehow, Rome, the BSR, the whole thing.

John’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by John Robertson.

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists… Yusuf Ali Hayat

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our fourth interview is with Yusuf Ali Hayat, Helpmann Academy Resident.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

You were born in England to Indian parents and now live and work in Australia. How has movement across these cultures influenced your work?

A lot of my art practice has been preoccupied with ideas about being and longing and be(long)ing. Growing up in England, there is the big mainstream culture, then there are other cultures (which I grew up in and around). When I started to move out of the security of family and community I became more acutely aware of my distance from the dominant cultural centre. I think many people, especially second and third generation migrants, experience a hypersensitivity to all forms of exclusion and discrimination. There is an awareness that you (not coming from the dominant culture) might not always be represented in a lot things – and the things represented, are not reflective of your experience. In Australia too, I am aware of this ‘otherness’, I can also see trends that open up the mainstream without fetishizing and exoticising minority cultures. Difference is good!

I’m interested in the history of intercivilisational contact. If you think of cultures as fixed, bounded entities then there is no room for engagement. Culture is more dynamic, we need to create a dialogue, to try to keep finding ways to penetrate the established centre. Because of my perceived distance from the settled cultural centre that’s the position from which I negotiate my relationship with it. This distance creates a critical space that, for me, is also the creative space.

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Through interaction there is room for re-negotiation, the settled centre shifts and mutates in some way. I don’t necessarily have to find the equivalent in the mainstream culture but I might find something familiar then appropriate and reassemble. A lot of what I make comes from within this constant cultural translation. Instead of assimilating into the centre, maintaining a sense personal agency gives importance to the things I grew up with, that I value and help me make sense of the world.

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You work in a variety of different mediums. Tell us more about the processes you have been exploring while here in Rome?

I love learning new things and experimenting with materials and processes. I enjoy seeing how different materials behave and the potential for communicating something. I think about mediums and materials in terms of language. As with language and words, materials can carry meaning too. Jumping between different mediums I am looking for how I can best communicate. Sometimes this is also about reaching the limits of my technical skill and experience with the medium.

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I come across this problem often with my limited Italian and try a Spanish or English word or phrase. Some words don’t readily translate or don’t have an equivalent in the other language. This can lead to unusual phrases that can be exciting through being interpreted differently. I used to work at a residence for asylum seekers whilst their claim for refugee status was being processed. Someone came to say that their light was not working. He couldn’t find the right word for bulb, he instead said ‘there is no sunshine in my room’. It wasn’t a place many people would stay out of choice and I felt empathy for him which might not have happened in the same way if he had simply reported the bulb in his room needed replacing. This is what I mean by switching between languages (and mediums) new expressions are found, trying to say the same thing using different words.

The medium I have been working with here comes from looking around Rome and how most people I see engage with the city.

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I’ve spent a lot of time around Piazza Navona, I kept gravitating towards the depiction of the river Ganges in Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. A lot of visitors to Rome pass by there and nearly everyone takes a photo.

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It’s pretty likely that some people’s experience of the fountain is mediated through the screen and the photo they take away of themselves there. Photography felt like an appropriate medium to communicate something of how most visitors engage with Rome.

Photography is about time, a medium that is caught up in the register of time. This is relevant in a place such as Rome, where you are surrounded by the gravity of history, its weight and the build-up of time. I’m also aware of the physical build-up of time here and how that is visible in the depth of excavations!

Conventional photography is often about the snapshot – ‘the decisive moment’. The photographic technique I am working with abandons some of the conventions of photography — i.e. where there is a single perspective and time is constant across the frame.

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In the work for the Mostra the register of time across the image has shifted. The images are more an impression of the process and duration of making rather than a stamp of the moment in front of the lens.

Yusuf’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Yusuf Ali Hayat

 

 

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Oona Grimes

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our interview is with Oona Grimes, our Bridget Riley Fellow.

 

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri 

Tell us about your journey in Rome so far and what you have experienced this term?

The story board rolls on…

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‘roman sKandals’, 75x110cm

I came to Rome with a selection of films playing in my head – from the Neorealists to late Fellini. Particular scenes and actions began to haunt me, sequences with particular relevance to the time and the place.

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Still from ‘coming soon : Stromboli’s bucket’

The Piazza Rotunda was one of my daily morning walks –  just to be in Rome – early, before the crowds, to watch the road sweepers and the shop keepers setting up. I began learning specific filmed actions, initially concentrating on the scene from Umberto D when he is reduced to begging outside The Pantheon – rehearsing and repeating his actions in order to Know them, drawing them physically, drawing myself into the film.

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Umberto D. Script (Photo: Rocco Sciaraffa)

I continued filming with Mozzarella in Carrozza, drawn from Bicycle Thieves – focusing on the excruciatingly painful scene in the restaurant Antonio and his son, Bruno can’t afford – a scene of misplaced pride, disillusion and the vivid class divide between them and the diners.

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Still from ‘coming soon’ : mozzarella in carozza [Bicycle Thieves]’ i.phone rushes : 3’07”

Now, ‘u.e u’. from Pasolini’s Uccellacci e Uccellini, filmed in Garbatella. Bird calls haunt me in the studio, their repetitive song invades my dreams.  ‘u.e u.’ is a sublime dance of miscommunication, mistranslation, absurd jumpy hands gestures referencing both gestures from paintings and everyday communication. Using 16mm film cut with iPhone clips I chased language – both the learning and losing of it – the omissions, the torn, the discontinuity, the patches, the bad repairs.

I spent a day at Cinecitta with an incredible fake Sistine Chapel and Chapel of Tears, the reality and the illusion madly muddled into un Papa in acqua pazza. A visit from the Vatican press intensified the hallucination as dog collars and papal gowns munched pizza over lunch.

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The ‘real’ Sistine Chapel (Photo: copyright free image)

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Spot the difference… the Sistine Chapel re-created at Cinecitta

Parallel Pantheon worlds… Bishops and Monsignors… drapes and folds and hand gestures, rituals and roses.

Walking, watching, hand gestures, the sign language of hands, mis-translation and mis-communication, bird language, silent language.

Drapes and folds pleats and drapes fabric fashion folds.

 

In your exploration of Italian Cinema, have you found a female character to feature in your work?

I’ve been looking at Liliana Cavani and Ketty La Rocca, Laura Betti and Silvana Mangano but the story board embraces a motley and disparate bunch of characters none of whom take starring roles – they are more the underdogs and background extras.

 

Last term you spoke about your first experiences in Rome as “a sea of visual treats…felt like a veritable tartan sea sponge, a kid who has overdosed on candy floss”. Has this also been the case this term or have you been focusing on specific themes?

The sponge gets bigger!

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‘angelo del fango’, 75 x 110cm

The six months have made an Enormous difference. Initially I was too ravenous, greedily devouring and collecting. Now it has been amazing to re-visit collections and spend time with just one work. Daily there are new discoveries and long lists for future explorations.

This term I have enjoyed watching the light change and the city fill up with visitors. The drapery, the folds, the fabric has etched itself into my brain… Folds n flocks, soft squidgy marble folds….

Stay tuned… ‘coming soon e.u e.’ …

 

Oona’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Oona Grimes, unless otherwise stated.

 

June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Today’s interview is with John Rainey, our Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow.

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Photo: Antonio Palmeiri

You recently participated in EVA International. Tell us more about this experience…

EVA is an international biennial that takes place in Limerick, in the west of Ireland. For this year’s EVA I was commissioned to create a new piece of outdoor sculpture – an architectural intervention onto the facade of a Georgian building called the Hunt Museum.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

The commission demanded much of my attention in the first 3 months of my BSR fellowship and was finally delivered in mid-April. There were a lot of new approaches for me with this project, including working on a much larger scale, and working with a steel fabricator in Ireland, while I was based here in Rome. This kind of remote management of the project was a challenge, but ultimately good experience.

At the end of March I returned to Ireland to do the final stage of the fabrication, and was based in a studio at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, where I had a short production residency. The finished work was a staging of a section of the building’s façade falling into ruin, so the development and production periods coinciding with my fellowship in Rome felt especially relevant. My time spent at ruined sites around the city, particularly thinking about fragmentation, destruction and conservation practices are still influencing my planning of new work.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

Will the work you show in the June Mostra be connected to the work you presented in Ireland?

Not directly, though it will share some of the thinking about control, destruction and imitation with the ruins project. This time I’m picking up on a dialogue with classical statuary form.

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“Variants (Addendum)” (detail), 2017. Image: Simon Mills courtesy of Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

In visiting collections in the Museums of Rome, my existing interest in the copy has narrowed in on ideas about repetition, states of repair and provenance. Specifically copies of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, one of which I saw recently at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I will be presenting a series of variations of this form on a reduced scale, developed through 3D printing and traditional casting processes.

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Doryphoros at National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

I am working with new materials in Rome, such as silicone, jesmonite and printied vinyl (as with the interior ruins piece I showed in the March Mostra), so the work in the upcoming June Mostra will feature a combination of these.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to Roman ruin (you)’, 2018. BSR March Mostra. (Photo: Roberto Apa)

 

You recently visited the excavations at Pompeii, as you were particularly interested in the plaster cast bodies. Explain how this trip affected you?

The Pompeii casts are especially interesting for me because casting in one of the main processes I use in my work. I create moulds to cast into, but at times I’m also casting from life.

More aligned with the tradition of death casting, the cavities created by the bodies in Pompeii acted as ready made moulds after the decomposition of soft tissue. The results of this natural casting process (following the intervention of Giuseppe Fiorelli who filled the spaces with plaster) are artefacts that resist classification – part artwork and part corpse.

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Pompeii plaster casts

Similarly, seeing the artefacts first-hand is not a singular experience – they’re beautiful and horrifying at the same time. This dual experience is something familiar to a lot of the corporeal work that I make.

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Pompeii plaster casts

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John Rainey, “Face Off”, 2016

There’s another significant resonance between the Pompeii bodies and my practice in terms of the use of digital scanning processes. In recent years the bodies have been subject to CT scanning which has revealed the skeletal remains and other matter that lies inside the solid forms.

Pompeii Cat scan on casts of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius

Pompeii plaster cast, 3D scan and CT scan. (Picture by: NApress)

This information has really expanded our knowledge of the society they represent, while also correcting long-held assumptions about the victims, such as the causes of death, gender, and social status. This example of material and digital technologies rendering the human past with greater lucidity, when applied to this historical, real-world investigation, has been useful for thinking about the wider context of the processes I use.

John’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by John Rainey.