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.

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June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Murat Urlali

As we approach the March 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 first interview is with Murat Urlali, our National Art School, Sydney, Resident

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The decorative motifs of the Cosmati mosaic floors that you saw in San Clemente have begun to appear in your work. These mosaics take inspiration from the Eastern Byzantine tradition overlapping with the Western Classical. How are ideas of cross-cultural exchange explored in your work?

The cross-cultural exchange or interculturalism is a really important for me and for my art.

The Quebec philosopher Charles Taylor says that multiculturalism encourages the Ghettos and Ghettoism in a country. But interculturalism emphasises the integration, which is exactly what I agree with. Multiculturalism requires equal rights for different cultures, but there is no requirement for them to interact with each other, except through a common spoken language in a country. But interculturalism promotes interaction, understanding and respect: integration between different cultures and different ethnic groups.  Exploring cross-cultural exchange is, I suppose, at least part of “my thing”!!!

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What is important to mention here is that I do not come from a Judea Christian background. When I decided to study art, at the National Art School, Sydney, I suddenly found myself plunged into a world of assumed knowledge of tradition and experience of a Biblical narrative – this was a real cultural shock!!  I suppose that exploring cross-cultural exchange is my way of coming to terms with this.

Before I came to Rome, much of my practice was informed by trying to connect the idealised Western imagery, which is traditional painting, with the spiritual symbolism of the Islamic world. Thereby creating a dialogue between the Western and Eastern viewers of my work. Considering the times in which we are living this dialogue is both useful, and I believe necessary.

In Rome you spend so much of your time looking up; to intricately decorated ceilings and to breath-taking sculptures in the Galleria Borghese. These little squares that I have made, inspired by the Cosmati floors, remind you to look down – to see down to what you are walking on. These mosaics are so beautiful and so much work has gone into these cut marble floors. This is what I have tried to reflect in my small squares, my tondi.

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You work on a variety of different subjects in your paintings. Tell us more about what you have been exploring while here in Rome?

As an artist who embraces the kitsch and camp, Rome provides such a rich source of inspiration. Even, if you ask me, the Vatican City and the Catholic Church — so theatrical with so many colours.

I have been using my time here sensibly to explore churches, galleries and Museums taking the opportunity to get up close and personal with works of my artistic heroes.  I have visited some galleries quite a few times. One church, Santa Maria del Popolo — I honestly can’t remember how many times I have been there — every time I head back to the BSR I pop in and look at my two favorite Caravaggio’s.

This is my first time in Rome and I am trying to look-up and embrace as much as I possibly can!

The tondi ‘Same sex intimacy’ and the ‘Medusa’, I have completed while I have been here.  I think it is clear that I have viewed Michelangelo’s and Caravaggio’s work through a rather Camp lens.  For the third tondo that I am working on now, I found inspiration at Porta Portese in Trastevere. This market is so big and the streets are so full. I was walking in the market, I saw this Venetian mask and thought, YES — this is what I have to do! I love the mask idea as it lends itself to my practice, letting me reflect on mystic and mystery as well as intimacy and ambiguity. This is why I started to focus first on the eyes of the figure.

Looking to the small works again, I have been fascinated by the patterns that you can find all over Rome. Especially interesting, to me are those that have been influenced by Eastern art, the Cosmati Mosaic floors.

Some people may view working on very precise, geometrically exact and the repetitive patternation as restrictive, but I certainly do not! I have found it quite liberating. By creating these multi textural bejeweled surfaces, that make a density and are dazzling in the light. I hope to capture a light dance and sense of liberation about them. I am trying to invite the viewers to intimately engage with the details and examine the works in detail.

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Do you think that you shall take these tondi designs back to Australia?

Certainly, indeed when I go back to Australia I am planning to use some Cosmati patterns in my work. But in Australia I shall work on a different scale 2m in height.

One thing that I know is that I shall be coming back! I don’t know how after all these years I have not been in Rome, I shall be back very soon!

Murat’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 Murat Urlali (excepting church of San Clemente, copyright free image). 

Ashby Adventures 2018

Last week we hosted our Ashby Patrons visit to Rome. This is always a very special weekend in the BSR’s calendar when we welcome our Ashby Patrons to the BSR for an action-packed few days of adventures both inside and outside the city. This year was no exception with a full and expertly tailored programme of excursions!

Always an important part of the weekend, is the opportunity for the Patrons to speak with resident award-holders and to visit the studios of artists resident at the BSR. This year was no different. On arrival the group were treated to a visual feast (indeed, a sneak preview of what is to come in next month’s June Mostra) by three of our artists in residence – Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident), John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting) and Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow). After visiting the studios the group joined BSR residents and staff for dinner.

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Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident) in his studio

The first full day began with a visit to the Venerable English College, the Catholic seminary in Rome which trains priests from England and Wales.

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After a hearty welcome from Ryan Service, a Seminarian from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the group had the privilege of being led around the college, current exhibition and the archives, by Archive Coordinator and BSR Research Fellow Professor Maurice Whitehead. This visit was also an opportunity to explain to the group the British School at Rome’s ambition to work in collaboration with Venerable English College to open access to their archives, facilitating the opportunity to bring UK scholars to Rome to study them.

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Sustained by a fine lunch, the group progressed to the second visit of the day, a guided tour of Palazzo Pamphilj (situated within Piazza Navona and now home to the Brazilian Embassy in Italy) led by Assistant Director Tom True.

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Within the Ashby group we were lucky to have BSR Former Chair of council Timothy Llewellyn, expert on the frescoed ceiling of Pietro da Cortona, who explained the story of Aeneas depicted on the ceiling above. We were then treated to a spectacular view from the balcony to the piazza below.

After a day of visual and gastronomic treats, those who had the strength, stomach and courage, rounded off the day with a gelato at Giolitti!

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Relaxed and refreshed, the second day saw the Ashby group venture out from Rome to Lake Bracciano, to enjoy a guided tour of Castello Odescalchi bathed in sunshine.

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After the tour the group enjoyed a delicious feast comprised of locally sourced ingredients at an agriturismo in Trevignano. Yet, this was not the end of the days programme, upon arrival back to the BSR, Marco Iuliano (member of the BSR Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters) gave a presentation entitled ‘Notes on the Cartography of Rome’, with particular reference to special holdings from our Library, including a map by Giovani Battista Cingolani della Pergola (1704), which depicts Lake Bracciano.

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The advent of the final day revealed that some of the best treasures had been saved until last. Valerie Scott (Librarian and Deputy Director) presented the Library’s latest addition, a gift of rare books presented to the BSR earlier this year by Chair of Council Mark Getty.

To round off the trip, Director Stephen Milner brought the Ashby’s up-to-date with his vision of the future for the BSR, prompting a lively discussion. As per tradition, the weekend concluded with brunch at Caffè delle Arti with reflections on the activities and success of the weekend.

It was a delight to host the Ashby Patrons, and was a chance to say thank you for their continued support and guidance, which is wholeheartedly appreciated and valued by the whole BSR community.

Roll on next year…!

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Blog and photographs by Alice Marsh (Events and Communications Assistant) 

 

The true Italian pop-art… with Nicholas Hatfull

 

In February, artist and former BSR Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture Nicholas Hatfull gave the third Felicity Powell Lecture, following on from last year’s talks by Padraig Timoney and Marc Camille Chaimowicz.

Taking the 1973 drawing by Andrea Pazienza The True Italian Pop-Art as a jumping-off point, Nick embarked on a picaresque hopscotch, connecting reflections on artefacts ancient and recent with novelistic vignettes from his time in Italy. His lecture was followed by a conversation with Marco Palmieri, and here they continue that conversation two months on from the talk. Attachment-1.png

NH: Marco, it was very nice to be talking together at the BSR, which has been, and is a special place for both of us. Something Paul Holdengraber is fond of quoting on his podcast is ‘when we talk, things fall out of our pockets’. So let’s see if there’s anything tangled up in our keys…?

MP: When I think back to your talk, I remember quite vividly the enjoyable tasty morsels of imagery your words and presentation brought forth. Funnily enough (as per our previous conversations), your talk reminded me of the book you love so much, The Book of Dreams by Federico Fellini.

You presented so enjoyably post-it note ideas and snapshots of moments of Rome, that over the past years, have been wonderfully woven into your practice; your paintings, sculpture and writings.

Do you think that Fellini’s book has influenced the way you approach – in the broadest sense – the art of making?

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NH: Yes, probably in more ways than I can articulate. It’s too hot to handle. I remember being pleased, having left it back in London while on the Sainsbury Scholarship in Rome – it’s a whopper – coming across some loose sheets from his Book of Dreams on display in a small gallery in Via Margutta. Double-sided, displayed on a hinged frame.

Condensed, febrile vignettes. But the book, and his films, as the best art does, affect the way you experience and reflect on the world, your immediate environment. I remember seeing a coachload of tourists, pressed against the vehicle’s windows, filming the Colosseum, and it had this faintly ludicrous, archly stylised aspect. The coach seemed haloed, yet a little menacing. These things are gift-wrapped moments.

I was just describing to someone the Pizzeria Da Michele, which Gabriel (Hartley) showed me on Via Flaminia. Completely invisible from street level, one enters it through a children’s museum. Suddenly you are not in central Rome but a motorway service station, but a service station that serves fantastic Neapolitan pizza, so molten it’s more like a soup than many. This bleeding of one associative experience into another is the working (il)logic of Fellini. Speaking of Gabriel, while visiting the BSR it was my good fortune to visit the studios of artists I knew and was yet to know.

Few things are better for the soul than visiting another artist’s studio, and it was nice to able to make a few suggestions of what the scholars might take a look at, having worked in Rome myself. It was a treat, also, Marco to come see your studio off Via Tuscolana in advance of your exhibition in Milan.

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Nicholas Hatfull in conversation with Marco Palmieri, February 2018 (Photo by Antonio Palmieri)

MP: I think this layering of ‘experiences’, from having a gelato, to seeing a bus full of tourists gawking at the colosseum, compounded with the pre-existing archive of memories and artworks one keeps safely stored in the back of one’s head, seems to unfold quite feverishly – but also with a sense of ease – in your work. A hard balance to pull off. I see it in your paintings, your sculptures, and writing. I would be curious to know more of which experiences, between your past Roman life (or lives, since you have been a resident in Rome more than once) and current life in London, are rubbing against each other at the moment? You have always had a real knack for composing surreal open associations!

NH: We just spent some days on Holkham beach, which reminded me of the – quite different – dunes at Ostia. And on the morning of my departure from Rome, the arrival Siberian air…a playground in Testaccio in the snow – all ochre, saffron and forest green mottled by dirty white. And, a little to my horror, gelato. Gosh, it certainly sounds like I deal in cliché. But of course I suspect there is an abyss to be uncovered beneath these moments.

Not to mention driving back from Arezzo in the snow, listening to Songs for Drella. Preparing the BSR talk was a nice chance to write, assembling those faintly comic, memoirish vignettes.

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MP: Well it is interesting that you mention clichès. I remember a few years ago Lucy Coggle writing a piece on the power of the clichè, not as an endpoint in language, but a possible new alphabet to create inventive forms of prose/narratives/meaning. I think neither of us are against the pleasures of clichès or the kitsch. The iconic figure of the Italian gelato holds its ground just as much as a Caravaggio painting.

I guess I am interested in knowing more how you navigate this big pot of images, memories, and experiences; how do you sift through this all, and decide what things are allowed to ‘fall out of your pocket’. I guess my question involves your opinion on questions of selection, appropriation and editing…

Does writing, perhaps, help shape a very distinct ‘handwriting’?

(I guess this could be seen as a necessary tip of the hat to the likes of Cy Twombly and Howard Hodgkin)

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NH: I hadn’t specifically related Hodgkin’s mode of image making to the idea of the trophy before preparing the talk, and I have been chewing on it in the weeks since. A number of Twombly’s paintings of the eighties seem inflected by his love of being driven on particular routes, scrolling blurred landscape out the window. Both these artists, of course, arrive at something melting, quivering, but condensed and powerfully eloquent.

Regarding your point on navigating options, I must say it rarely, if ever, feels like a decision as such. It is a case of following the only route that appears viable at that time. Perhaps you could call it a stock pot on the boil, but all I can do is skim off the matter that has risen to the surface -scum?

MP: It’s interesting to hear you talk about your decision-making with such a light grip. When you were giving your talk – and once again these past days – John Ashbery came to mind, specifically his poem Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. His approach, and yours, seem to have something in common; an experience, or in this specific case an image, conjures a concatenation of words and images that seem to flow quite effortlessly, with puncuating moments spread throughout. Do you see something in this poem that might relate to the way you make or think?

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NH: If I called to mind Ashbery then I was doing something right, but I’m too English not to baulk at the comparison! Not long ago I was reading a recent collection, Breezeway. I very much like the simultaneous courting of charges of meaninglessness, while the poems bristle with fugitive or potential meaning.

MP: I think Ashbery is a good fit. Both of you manage to draw out so many nutrients (be it words or images) from various experiences in such a rich way.

I guess I would like to finish off our interview with a question about Rome; what have you brought back with you to London from this recent trip? I ask, hoping to be left with some teasers that we might see eek out in future works or projects.

MP to NH:

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NH: I love this picture. What a suitable ending…

 

A look back at the March Mostra 2018

In March we saw the second mostra of our 2017–18 programme, in which our seven Fine Arts award-holders and resident architect 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-Heaslip (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

 

Marie-Claire Blais (Québec Resident)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Gabriel Hartley (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

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Joseph Redpath (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Deborah Rundle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Joseph Redpath

As we approach the March 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 and resident architecture fellow. Our last interview is with Joseph Redpath, our Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

At the start of your residency you showed us some images of the maps of Gianbattista Nolli and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. How has your research developed?

The Nolli map has been a constant reference point during my time in Rome I began by looking into how Rome has been represented cartographically alongside studying recollections of Rome and walking through the city myself. The way in which the city is drawn often reflects attitudes to politics and the city, art and science, however written sources can offer a further insight into the life of the city.

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In Piranesi’s work, I was particularly interested in the manner in which he drew the mass of the city as tabula rasa which was then punctured by monuments, which was a theme that I discovered ran through historic representations of Rome — the focus of the city, as today, is very much on its mirabilia or marvels.

From here I started to think about the content of the tabula rasa. Particularly, I looked at the area of the Campus Martius – chaotic and typical of Rome at this time, it contains a disorder that contradicts Roman urban planning. One particular experience which continually surprises me is the moment in which one arrives feeling disorientated and lost into the Piazza della Rotonda and we’re greeted by the Pantheon. An incredible temple with such clarity and presence, almost lost and inappropriate among its context. I love that sense of surprise and discovery that can be discovered in Rome.

The idea of these ‘un-designed spaces’ which have developed as an urban palimpsest is something that as an architect I find incredibly interesting. My work entails six sculptures of some of the negative spaces of the city, in an attempt to transform them into precious objects with renewed meanings and contexts.

 

During this residency, which offers you time to approach your line of research in a more speculative way, are you thinking of working with new and less familiar material?

Rome its self is an unfamiliar place but obviously through the spread of the roman empire there is strong sense of familiarity. Working with the city I’ve discovered such a depth in history, which is difficult but exciting to deal as an architect. I have never spent so much time looking into a single city. It’s a huge luxury to have the time and the space to contemplate and to consider the city in new ways. I wanted to use processes with which I’m familiar in order to produce my final pieces, however I’m using plaster for the first time and adding pigment to give the works colour.

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But I am just touching on this topic – what I am really doing, and what I shall present for the Mostra, are personal observations of Rome. I feel like this experience stretches far beyond the Mostra and can be something which I will be able to draw greatly from later.

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Joseph’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the March Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 16 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 24 March 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Joseph Redpath.

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

As we approach the March 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 and resident architecture fellow. Today’s interview is with John Rainey, our Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

You use a variety of techniques, from traditional forms of craft to more technologically advanced forms of fabrication. How do you think your interest in more classical forms of art, especially when considering the material available in Rome, will feed into your practice over the next few months?

Yes, my work has a dialogue with the history of manufacturing technologies and because of my interest in the copy, I tend to work with processes that are closely connected to reproduction and imitation. I most often work with slip-cast Parian porcelain, which was developed and used extensively in the British ceramics industry in the 19th century to produce the sort of forms we find in Rome on a domestic scale. So there’s a feeling of returning to the source about my time here, and a tendency to think in terms of originals, but what is becoming a particular focus of my interest is a more complex role of the copy within Roman sculpture. The displays at Palazzo Massimo have been particularly useful so far, for thinking around this entanglement of re-visitations, reconstructions and versions.

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Being removed from my usual equipment and facilities is persuading me to consider alternative modes of production while I’m here. I will develop my work with digital fabrication (3D scanning and printing) which offers new possibilities for interacting with forms of the past, and disrupting the temporality and provenance of a physical artefact.

 

Could you tell us more about the project you will be doing for Ireland’s Biennial? Will you be developing part of this project while you are here in Rome?

I’ve been working on a commission for EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial 2018, which will open in Ireland in April, so this has been a main focus of my first three months in Rome. I’m producing a sculptural architectural intervention where I’m staging a section of a museum’s façade in ruins. It refers to the 18th century landscaping tradition of building Greek and Roman ruins within wealthy gardens and estates across Europe and has links to major themes in my work such as artifice, pretence and imitation. It’s the largest project I’ve worked on to date and part of the fabrication has been happening in Ireland while I’ve been in Rome, so it’s been a good experience of managing a project from abroad. For the March Mostra I will show some documentation of the project that reflects this experience of working remotely, along with a life-size 2D reconstruction of a section of the sculpture.

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Because of the nature of the project, I spent my first few weeks in Rome visiting ruins across the city. One of the features of the ruins that kept drawing my attention was the metal collars that you find retrofitted to architectural columns at sites like Largo Argentina and the Forum, for conservation purposes. I started to think of these as another type of intervention, connected to ideas about control, staging and display, and this has started to influence new work that may feature in the June Mostra.

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John’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the March Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 16 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 24 March 2018, closed Sundays.

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