Meet the Artists… Soheila Sokhanvari / December Mostra 2018

Ahead of the December Mostra as part of our Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Soheila Sokhanvari (Derek Hill Foundation Scholar) about the use of pattern and colour in Greco-Roman art, as well as her recent public arts commission for the Mayor of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign.


Soheila Sokhanvari (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

As a cultural hybrid, born in Iran but having lived in Britain for most of your life, you are captivated by ideologies that connect Eastern and Western cultures, particularly through complex elaborate patterning in Islamic art and its connection to Greco-Roman and Byzantine art. How are you developing this during your residency in Rome?


I have always been drawn to pattern because my father was a fashion designer and through him I learnt about how we use colour and patterns to create visual identities and even for storytelling. Decoration, patterning and taste explore subliminal communication tools that are never neutral and contain the cultural, the socio-political, colonial history and economics of a society, for instance the clan specificity of the Scottish tartan or the Kente patterns of the African cultures (which were actually designs by the Dutch and adopted in Congo) have symbolic meaning that are culturally explicit. Patterns can be specific to an economic stratum as in advertising companies’ use of branding such as Burberry, Liberty, Gucci etc, they can also be specific to an era like the flower power of the 1970s and they can create a subconscious communication that historically we have used in considering each other.

lips like sugar

Lips Like Sugar, 2018, egg tempera on vellum

The Islamic geometric pattern was born out of the Greco-Roman patterns as a substitute for the figure in art. In Islam geometric patterning symbolises the infinity of God and the vastness of the universe and by decorating every single space it is meant to create delirium in the viewer in order to contemplate God. In Roman culture the geometric mosaic borders at the entrance of buildings were thought of as defensive devices in presenting a puzzle, that caused a ‘cognitive stickiness’ in demons who were trapped in an endless sequence of attempting to unravel the design and that any evil spirit would have become so fascinated by its entwined strands as to suffer from a paralysis of will so as not enter the buildings (Gell, A). The eternal city of Rome is a treasure trove of colour and patterns and it is fascinating how modern some of these Roman patterns are, of course that is because they have been an inspiration for designers and artists for centuries. I have been looking at the simple geometric patterns for instance the diamond shape opus reticulatum which was used by the Romans in their brickworks, the ◊-shape in the mosaic works – so simple and yet so mesmerizing – had a symbolic meaning too, the two triangles, one downward (Yin) and one upward pointing (Yang), embodies the balance of the universe and the networks of life. It is riveting to learn how for the Romans every colour and shape had a meaning that we have lost the ability to connect with or read.

I have also been binge watching Italian films and happily stumbled onto drawings by Fellini who was a witty draftsman. I adore his films and now am an even bigger fan of his. I have been working on portraits of Iranian pre-revolutionary female pop-stars photographed by men with a view to reinterpret them under my gaze.

Baby, I'M A Star

BABY, I’M A STAR, 2018, egg tempera on paper

You took part in a public arts commission in collaboration with Tate Collective and the Mayor of London, #BehindEveryGreatCity, to mark the centenary of the first women in the UK winning the right to vote. Can you tell us more about this project?

This project was curated by Tate collective as part of the Mayor of London’s endeavour to create a series of public art works each inspired by a specific woman who had been overlooked from London’s history. There were twenty artworks in total and I was given the site of Victoria Station. There were several conditions to meet for the proposal – it had to address the history of the suffrage movement and reference the legacy of the chosen artist for that specific station. Victoria Station was the location to celebrate Marion Dorn because she was an important female artist living and working in Chelsea, London, from 1923 to 1940. She was an American artist who designed the original pattern for TFL (Transport for London) which continues to inspire designs used today, and her textiles and carpets were hung in iconic interiors such as the Savoy, Claridge’s and the White House.  Marion Dorn was nicknamed the ‘architect of the interiors’ because of her designs for floors and carpets. She was a huge success opening her own company in Chelsea, London.

Stephen and SOheila

Soheila with BSR Director Stephen Milner at her installation in Victoria Station for the #BehindEveryGreatCity initiative

My piece was realised as a carpet inspired by an earlier carpet made in 1935 by Dorn and the colours that she used were symbolic of the American suffrage flag colours – green for hope, yellow for life and purple for loyalty. You can see my work which is presently hanging in the young people’s workshop at Tate Britain.

Soheila Sokhanvari (Derek Hill Foundation Scholar)


Soheila’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in December Mostra, opening Friday 14 December 18.30-21.00.

Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 December 2018, closed Sundays.





Meet the Artists…Samuel Hasler / December Mostra 2018

Ahead of the December Mostra as part of our Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Samuel Hasler (Creative Wales-BSR Fellow) about his research into giallo films… and ghosts at the BSR.


Samuel Hasler (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

Your research at the BSR focuses on Italian cinema, especially on the genre of giallo. How are you developing the study of this cinematographic style?

I came to Rome imagining that I might make work in a certain way, I had written notes towards a sort of giallo screenplay/novella that I was enjoying working on and I imagined I would develop this here. I also brought some low-grade video cameras with half a plan of making some short videos. Inevitably things have moved sideways a little, but giallo cinema and horror cinema is still an influence on the way that I’m putting the work together.

I came up with a working title for a film or text work I Colori Dei Telefoni which to me sounded like the name of a giallo style film, but also it came about after being told about the Telefoni Bianchi films. This got me thinking about phones and their presence in cinema. Phones in giallo films would of course be all different colours, on those 70s film sets of bold colourful design. In horror cinema there is a very specific way in which phones work. They allow contact between our villains and victims with an unknown distance between them. The voice becomes violent and intrusive. The ringing phone becomes an ominous portent.

For a while I thought I’d make a film based on public payphones in the city. I’ve no idea what that film would be. I wanted to make phone calls to the public phones from the BSR and see who answered, but I don’t think Italian payphones work this way, and I don’t speak Italian.

I started recording stuff with my low-grade cameras at night.


My hands have a natural tremor, it’s very noticeable when recording film. I became interested in the way this would generate a specific quality to the film, and how the autofocus was constantly battling with the jerky movements of the camera. One night there was a tremendous thunderstorm, that went on for hours and I got some beautiful footage of that. I liked the way the camera was struggling to deal with the sudden shifts in light and this got me interested in working with all these limitations. The camera also picks up rain in a particularly clear way. So there was a bunch of interesting textures across the footage I was getting. All filmed at night, mostly in the rain, and as often as possible, in the crashing lights of a thunderstorm.


So I don’t really know if I did any research in a typical structured way into giallo, or if I’ve done lots more than I was doing before I got here. But the aesthetics of vintage horror, and the atmosphere of these things have been important in the way that I’ve made work.

All the footage I’ve made is black and white. I like the idea that I might make a film called I Colori Dei Telefoni, filmed in black and white, and with no telephones in it.

Sometime before the mostra I’ll watch All The Colours Of The Dark which is a giallo by Sergio Martino, and I’m sure like everything here, it’ll start to feed in.

Visiting the archives you found material belonging to a very important personality for the BSR, Eugenie Sellers Strong, Librarian and Assistant Director from 1909 to 1925. How is the story of this woman having an impact on your research in Rome?


Eugenie Sellers Strong. Courtesy BSR Archives.

When I heard that the BSR had a ghost I couldn’t resist finding out a bit more about it. I love those trashy television programmes like Most Haunted. The wonky film style and the often lone presenters talking to camera. It all clicks into a range of other work that I’ve made. I love the way those shows present our beautiful fears and the romanticism of nocturnal spaces, but through the most hysterical, crude and idiotic lens.

Anyhow, the British School at Rome is haunted (maybe) by the ghost of Eugenie Strong, who was the first Assistant Director and Librarian of the British School at Rome. She was a formidable character and a huge influence on the organisation as it stands today. I’ve been talking with the brilliant archivist here, Alessandra Giovenco, and hatching plans, maybe for some kind of artwork to develop out of the archive material here. It’s early days on this, but it’s such fertile territory; I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it.

Sam’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in December Mostra, opening Friday 14 December 18.30-21.00.

Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 December 2018, closed Sundays.

Photos by Samuel Hasler unless stated otherwise.

All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present

Last week we held the workshop All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present, the second in the BSR’s series of interdisciplinary research study days in the UK on the historicity of materials and the work of the BSR. This event was generously sponsored by the Concrete Centre and hosted by the University of Liverpool in London. 


The day, organised by BSR faculty members Vivien Lovell, MaryAnne Stevens and Marco Iuliano, comprised a series of presentations on the use of concrete over two millennia. Speakers highlighted the extreme versatility, strength and plasticity of the material.

Alan Powers (London School of Architecture) opened the day with a keynote presentation exploring ‘Cult Contrete’, which provoked lively debate.

The first panel session, chaired by MaryAnne Stevens, explored the history of the use of concrete. Presentations encompassed over two thousand years of use from ancient Rome to Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978). Janet DeLaine introduced us to the seven virtues of concrete in ancient Rome, while Joseph Rykwert touched on the Renaissance ‘rediscovery’ of ancient concrete techniques. Richard Murphy closed the session, bringing us forward into the twentieth century, with his discussion of Scarpa’s use of water in his architectural projects – an analogy for concrete.

Related image

Giovanni Paolo Panini,
Interior of the Pantheon, Rome
c. 1734

After lunch participants were split into three groups and were treated to a study visit to to the Barbican Estate and Centre. These groups were led simultaneously by Catherine Croft (C20 Society), Dave King (Architect and Barbican Resident) and Vicky Richardson (Writer and Curator, of architecture and design). Even those who thought they knew the Estate well, were surprised to learn that there are over 100 different property types on the estate; that all of the concrete was hand chiselled (including the towers!); and that the water features were dyed to reflect depth.

We reconvened after the visits for the second panel session chaired by Vivien Lovell, which covered the contemporary use of concrete. Artist, Florian Roithmayr presented current work and described his process. Participants were able to see first hand concrete sculptures which Florian had on display throughout the day.


Concrete sculptures by Florian Roithmayr

Following this, organiser Marco Iuliano was in conversation with photographer Helene Binet, discussing themes in her architectural photographs of concrete structures. Finally Jo Melvin introduced us to the concept of concrete poetry and how it is produced in contemporary art practice.

The afternoon was concluded by two readings. Organiser Vivien Lovell read a poem entitled ‘Times New Roman’ by Pele Cox (written especially for the event) and Vicky Richardson read a passage from J G Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’.

IMG_5452 (1)

Concluding remarks were given by architect Eric Parry who succinctly synthesised the presentations and the interdisciplinary conversations of the day.

Text and photographs by Natasha Burbridge and Alice Marsh, BSR London Office.

Oplontis Room 66

BSR alumna Gina Medcalf’s (Abbey Fellow 2014–15) exhibition Oplontis Room 66 is currently open at the Kapil Jariwala Gallery, London. In this blog Gina discusses the dialogue between the historic and the contemporary and how the work is inspired by research carried out during her BSR residency. 


Photo Antonio Palmieri

In the Oplontis Room 66 series of paintings I want to connect the historic and the contemporary experiences of painting.  Already in my mind as an inspiring narrative before my BSR Abbey Fellowship of 2015, Roman wall paintings had a presence which demanded a deeper understanding.  I followed the clues as my research unfolded, like reading a detective story.  Similarly, the paintings which followed took their time to unfold, research and put into practice.


ROOM 66/3L, 2018
Acrylic on canvas
131.5 x 113 cm

The Room 66 wall paintings are of exceptional quality.  Perhaps by the same team of painters as the ‘fantastic’ architectural designs in the Cryptoporticus of Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome.  ‘The decorative system in the Domus Aurea spread from the capital to the rest of the Empire’, says Alessandra Zampieri  in her book, Ornament and the Grotesque.  And since it is a probability that Oplontis was built by Nero for his wife Poppea, the use of the same painters in the two locations could be considered.  Oplontis is a supreme example of Nero’s ‘new’ taste in decorative art.

However, I was not so interested in the grotesques in Room 66 as in the strong contrasts between the red and black below and the white grounded, full polychromatic upper part.  A visitor to the preview of my painting exhibition wrote, ‘I hope one day we will get to Oplontis, but I must say I imagined it as a rather sad and gloomy place and your paintings are so full of life that I must be wrong.’  The paintings at Oplontis are still full of life with their vibrant drawing and colour, two thousand years after they were painted.

In preparation for the Abbey Fellowship at the BSR, I looked at colour in Roman wall paintings from the point of view of use, availability and cost, then I looked for the closest equivalent to those colours in paints today. In Room 66 I found the key to unlock a convincing interpretation of that passage of time between c.50 CE and 2015.  The red, black, yellow, turquoise, sienna and brown oxide colours and the integration of that colour and linear drawings were the foundation for my 2018 series of paintings.


ROOM 66/4L, 2018
Acrylic on canvas
132 x 114.3 cm

Oplontis Room 66 is showing at the Kapil Jariwala Gallery, London until 2 November 2018.


Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects

La mostra Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects – curata dal faculty member della BSR Marco Iuliano con Valeria Carullo e Gabriella Musto – chiude al Vittoriano questo fine settimana. Abbiamo parlato con Marco per conoscere maggiori dettagli e il background di ricerca alla base di un progetto che, in meno di quattro mesi, ha attratto più di 100.000 visitatori.

Da dove arriva l’idea di questa mostra? 

La mostra è la sintesi di suggestioni diverse, di interessi e passioni che arrivano da lontano. Ma è, al tempo stesso (o, forse, soprattutto) il prodotto di incontri. Ho avuto la fortuna, negli anni della mia formazione universitaria, di avvicinarmi a uno degli archivi fotografici più importanti della mia città. È all’Archivio Parisio, sotto il porticato di San Francesco di Paola, a pochi passi dal Palazzo Reale di Napoli, che ho imparato a maneggiare con cura i negativi su vetro e ad amare questa disciplina, grazie alla generosità dei suoi curatori, Stefano Fittipaldi e Giuliana Leucci.

Roma, laboratorio dell’immagine dagli albori del medium, ha da sempre stimolato la mia immaginazione. D’altro canto, già dalla metà dell’Ottocento, i fotografi di ogni nazionalità – all’epoca sarebbe più corretto parlare di pittori/fotografi – si davano appuntamento al Caffè Greco in via dei Condotti e sperimentavano le nuove tecniche, dai dagherrotipi ai negativi su carta. E, tra i pionieri britannici, alcuni, da James Anderson a Robert McPherson, si erano addirittura trasferiti in pianta stabile a Roma.

Naturalmente, nel corso delle ricerche che stavo svolgendo presso gli archivi del Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), la curiosità mi aveva spinto a cercare immagini della Capitale. Non quelle iconograficamente più note, ma soprattutto, differenti momenti storici – autori e sguardi diversi. Si trattava prevalentemente di Inglesi: accanto alle immagini del citato Anderson – capostipite di una dinastia di fotografi – si ritrovano professionisti noti come Edwin Smith, Richard Bryant, Ivy de Wolfe, Richard Pare e ‘scoperte’ come Marion Johnson (meglio nota con lo pseudonimo di Georgina Masson), Tim Benton e Monica Pidgeon. Da subito, quindi, il secondo Novecento è sembrato un periodo pieno di potenzialità e relativamente ‘nuovo’, poco indagato, a differenza della fotografia delle origini a Roma, su cui molto è stato scritto, specie in Italia.


John Donat, Pantheon, 1960 (RIBA Collections)

L’opportunità è poi arrivata un paio di anni fa. Con la creazione dei poli museali in Italia, nel 2015, è cominciata una nuova e dinamica stagione di mostre e di valorizzazione di beni culturali. Con Gabriella Musto, che dirige con impegno e competenza il Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, condivido sin dai tempi dell’università la passione per la fotografia, in particolare di architettura. Passione che ci accomuna anche a Valeria Carullo, curator di fotografia al RIBA; abbiamo quindi integrato le nostre competenze per la mostra, grazie al supporto al progetto che da subito ci ha mostrato la direttrice del Polo Museale del Lazio, Edith Gabrielli, storica dell’arte che ha lavorato, tra le altre cose, sui temi della fotografia. Un’interlocutrice attenta che ha supportato la nostra sfida da subito.

Un aspetto importante di questo progetto è che in Italia iniziative di qualità possono essere realizzate, se ci sono le persone e la volontà giuste. Il Vittoriano, una vera e propria ‘macchina’ per apprezzare il paesaggio urbano romano, è stata la cornice ideale per l’esposizione – quale migliore sede per mostrare a Italiani e stranieri Roma come (probabilmente) non l’avevano mai vista?

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulle decisioni curatoriali, ad esempio l’uso di un approccio tematico per la presentazione delle immagini? 

L’aspetto curatoriale è stato sin dall’inizio in evoluzione. Personalmente credo che i progetti, siano essi di ricerca o espositivi, debbano avere una idea guida forte, basata su di una struttura chiara, cui facciano seguito scelte rigorose. Bisogna però avere la capacità e l’apertura al dialogo, al confronto; l’umiltà di saper cambiare le proprie idee, specie in iniziative complesse e aperte a tante opzioni.

La scelta di focalizzare la mostra su una collezione unica è stato un aspetto sul quale ho creduto sin dall’inizio. Conoscevo abbastanza bene l’archivio del RIBA, ma come curatori abbiamo speso tante ore a identificare, scegliere e confrontarci. In quest’ottica, ognuno ha dato il suo contributo e mi fa piacere ricordare tutti quelli che hanno arricchito il progetto: Antonello Alici, Wouter Bracke, Roberto Faraone, Alessandra Giovenco, Owen Hopkins, Martha Magrini Sissa, Paolo Mascilli Migliorini, Stephen Milner, Carla Molinari, Nick Ray, Richard Pare, François Penz e Tom True. Molti di loro hanno anche contribuito al catalogo, pubblicato da Skira.

Le 200 immagini in mostra sono una minima parte di quelle disponibili in archivio. La scelta non è stata semplice: come raccontare Roma, una città così complessa e stratificata, non solo nelle sue architetture ma anche nell’immaginario collettivo e nella produzione iconografica?

L’approccio tematico alle fotografie è stato quindi necessario e in mostra sono quattro le sezioni – Antichità, Modernità, Paesaggi Urbani e Atmosfere. Non solo: con la sospensione del tempo, che a nostro avviso ben si addice all’idea della ‘Città Eterna’, il materiale è presentato come se il tempo non fosse una variabile, dalle origini della fotografia fino alla contemporaneità, alla simultaneità. In mostra si può trovare un’immagine di metà Ottocento, accanto a una scattata qualche anno fa: analogie e contrasti visivi sono stati offerti al pubblico per le loro suggestioni e valutazioni.


Tim Benton, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, EUR, 1976 (RIBA Collections)

La risposta del pubblico è stata straordinaria. In meno di quattro mesi, più di 110.000 visitatori hanno varcato la soglia della mostra. Ma le soddisfazioni non si limitano ai numeri, hanno a che vedere con l’impatto delle immagini nella vita delle persone. Come nel caso di uno degli efficientissimi operai che, la notte prima dell’apertura, in pieno fermento tra un pennello, un chiodo e una cornice ha trovato il tempo di spedire un selfie con la sua immagine preferita, il Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana fotografato da Tim Benton. O la gioia di Luigi Fedullo, professionista del settore che ha stampato in maniera impeccabile gli scatti in mostra, quando ha sussurrato: ‘di fotografie per le mostre d’autore ne ho viste tante; ma in questa occasione non sono stato capace di trovare un’immagine che non sia bella.’

Alcuni commenti lasciati nel libro d’oro, poi, sono straordinari nella loro spontanea interpretazione delle tematiche. E, ovviamente, qualche (fortunamente isolato!) commento meno lusinghiero nel segnalare qualche errore, qualche omissione o più semplicemente nel suggerire degli accorgimenti. Suggerimenti che ci permetteranno di migliorare la prossima volta.

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulla collezione fotografica del RIBA dalla quale provengono queste fotografie?

È una domanda complessa che impone una risposta articolata. La collezione fotografica del RIBA ha da sempre esercitato su di me un grande fascino; ho avuto anche il piacere di conoscere il suo primo curatore, Robert Elwall, deus ex machina della collezione. Si tratta di un vastissimo repertorio che raccoglie più di un milione e mezzo di immagini e, infatti, Valeria Carullo ha dedicato a questo argomento un lungo saggio in catalogo.

Costituisce una delle più grandi raccolte del genere al mondo – con i fondi della Prints and Photographs Collection della Library of Congress di Washington e della Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library della Columbia University New York – e fra le più interessanti per la fotografia di architettura; in questo senso va anche ricordato il più piccolo fondo del Canadian Centre for Architecture. Il RIBA ha una magnifica sede Art Decò a Portland Place, a metà strada tra Regent Street e Regent’s Park. Gran parte del basement ospita negativi e stampe dell’archivio fotografico. Con la collezione di disegni e la biblioteca, rappresenta, per me, il nucleo culturale della professione, forse talvolta trascurato nel difficile rapporto con la professione stessa. Oltre a Valeria mi fa piacere ricordare, tra gli altri, Jonathan Makepeace e Justine Sambrook. La collezione spazia dalle origini della fotografia – é presente anche un’immagine di Henry Fox Talbot – alla contemporaneità, dal momento che continua ad acquisire, in maniera molto selettiva, immagini dei fotografi contemporanei, come Hélène Binet, Richard Bryant e Paolo Rosselli.


Domenico Anderson, Sant’Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, early twentieth century (RIBA Collections)

Come si inseriscono la mostra e la ricerca sulla fotografia d’architettura nel tuo percorso professionale? 

Quando dieci anni fa ho lasciato l’Italia per l’Inghilterra non pensavo che sarei potuto ritornare a lavorarci. Poi Stephen Milner, attuale direttore della BSR, mi ha invitato a far parte della Faculty of Humanities e ne sono stato onorato; ho conosciuto in questo primo anno persone straordinarie e mi piace qui ricordare Maryanne Stevens e Vivien Lovell, con cui stiamo organizzando con la BSR a Londra un convegno interdisciplinare sul Concrete, dal Pantheon alla contemporaneità. La BSR è la più importante istituzione di ricerca Britannica all’estero, dinamica, attiva e mi appassionava l’idea di poter condividere la mia esperienza, in architettura e nelle arti visive maturata in Italia e poi a Londra, Cambridge e Liverpool – e, allo stesso tempo, legare la BSR con le eccellenze italiane. Del resto le accademie straniere in Italia rappresentano un veicolo fondamentale per la diffusione e lo scambio culturale.

Ai tempi dell’università in Italia ho sperimentato un sostanziale disinteresse sui temi connessi alla fotografia di architettura. La logica universitaria italiana, nella maggior parte dei casi, è ancora legata a pratiche poco confacenti un paese moderno: c’è bisogno di una rivoluzione culturale, perché, in realtà, non c’è molta differenza tra le logiche clientelari che attanagliano il Paese e quelle di cui soffre l’accademia. C’è ancora tanto da fare in questo senso anche se, ovviamente, eccezioni ed eccellenze esistono e brillano ancora più evidenti in questo panorama. Spero, in futuro, di poter a dare un contributo al nostro meraviglioso, ma bistrattato Paese. In Italia c’è bisogno di competenza, ma anche di coraggiosi strumenti legislativi che favoriscano il merito e l’indipendenza intellettuale. Un’equazione semplice, se, nelle sedi giuste, ci sarà la volontà di mettere in discussione il sistema per migliorarlo.

Tornando alla ricerca, ho comunque perseverato, certo che si trattasse di temi importanti; e ho trovato colleghi, come François Penz (attuale Head del Department of Architecture, Cambridge University) con il quale abbiamo  poi concepito tanti progetti, ad esempio la mostra su Cambridge in Concrete, articoli scientifici e condiviso un corso, The Culture of the Image, che analizza l’architettura attraverso il cinema e la fotografia.


Monica Pidgeon, Termini Station, 1961 (RIBA Collections)

La fotografia è una soglia che permette di attivare il ricordo e l’immaginazione. Solo pensare che, come architetti, la nostra conoscenza degli edifici avviene, in gran parte, attraverso un’immagine, e quanto questo aspetto influisca sul modo in cui percepiamo e progettiamo l’architettura, credo rappresenti una motivazione sufficiente per studiare la fotografia con attenzione. Internet ha modificato esponenzialmente il numero di fruitori, e ha anche drammaticamente abbassato la qualità delle immagini che inondano l’etere. Imparare a discernere è diventata una priorità del nostro tempo e, infatti, in uno dei miei corsi cerco di far riflettere gli studenti proprio su come ‘leggere’ le immagini. Già negli anni trenta, Moholy-Nagy sosteneva che gli analfabeti del futuro sarebbero stati non quelli incapaci di leggere l’alfabeto, ma la fotografia.

Ho tanti interessi di ricerca interdisciplinari tra architettura e fotografia: accanto ai già citati fondi dell’Archivio Parisio e del RIBA, mi fa piacere ricordare l’archivio, conservato a Parigi, di Lucien Hervé, fotografo prediletto di Le Corbusier; mentre sto imparando a conoscere i fondi iconografici della BSR, grazie alla guida attenta di Valerie Scott e Alessandra Giovenco. Comunque, non trascuro mai incursioni nell’architettura contemporanea. Proprio in questi mesi, infatti, sto curando una mostra su Stirling+Wilford+Associates e dirigendo la competizione per la nuova scuola di Architettura a Liverpool: un progetto molto complesso per il quale, con il supporto dell’Università, stiamo immaginando una sfida per l’architettura che verrà. Magari ne parleremo in un’altra occasione…

Marco Iuliano

Marco in visita alla mostra

The BSR collaborated on this exhibition with RIBA, Polo Museale del Lazio, and the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. Published by Skira, the catalogue contains, among others, contributions by Marco Iuliano (FAHL member), Stephen Milner (Director), Tom True (Assistant Director), and Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).




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


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]’ 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.