December Mostra 2019 / Meet the artists… Tal Regev

As we approach the December Mostra, we are taking a closer look at the individual practices of our resident artists. The second interview is of Tal Regev, our Derek Hill Foundation Scholar.


You came to Rome with the aim of researching ecstasy in Italian art. You are especially interested in the sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. How are you developing your work in Rome in relation to this subject matter?

In my research about ecstasy in Italian art I am specifically drawn to the fall as a tactical response to an emergency. I am interested in the attempt of Teresa to find refuge from the most silent symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and fainting fits which she notes in her writings. The angel pierces through her heart with a golden spear and when he pulls it out she sinks into ecstasy.

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Bernini

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1645-52

I am interested in the realms that one falls into in ecstasy and how very subtle violences between individuals could push towards losing the boundaries of the physical body. In my research I’m specifically looking for notes of fracture and violence in Italian art. I am interested to bring those elements into my work as a silence which underpins everything.

Rapid shifts, 2018, oil on canvas, 190 x 160 cm

Tal Regev, Rapid Shifts, 2018. Oil on Canvas 190 x 160 cm

The shape of a snake recurs often in your paintings. Does this figure have a specific meaning in your practice?

The snake is a part of my talismanic series Rapid Shifts: swirling snakes leave the body and pull out information deeply embedded in the cells. They cut cords, and detoxify the blood cells. They operate as a healing element in my work, as a counterpoint to the personal experiences that leak through bodies.

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

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser).

Viscera, 2017, oil on canvas, 170 x 150 cm

Tal Regev, Viscera, 2017. Oil on Canvas 170 x 150 cm


December Mostra 2019 / Meet the artists… Holly Davey

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


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

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

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

Holly Davey Research image

Holly Davey, Research Image, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser) . 

Holly Davey Studio at British School of Rome, 2019

Holly Davey, BSR Studio, 2019

Summer and art at the BSR

Our July artists in residence from Newcastle University and those on the Meade Rome Residency from the University of the Arts London (Chelsea and London College of Communication) arrived just as the BSR façade was being completed. Together with Sainsbury Scholar Anna Brass and the three architects in residence on the Boas Award (Marco Fiorino, Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda and Aoi Phillips Yamashita), they curated a pop-up exhibition on the portico and steps on the evening of 25 July.

Elin Karlsson Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_38

Elin Karlsson, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Elin Karlsson (LCC, UAL) unfurled three large sails which she lit against the night sky with a floodlight hidden in a tiny cluster-cave of salt dough, broken glass and candles. Karl Foster (Chelsea, UAL) filled three abandoned niches beneath Piazzale Winston Churchill with a triptych of small dead trees that he found at the bottom of the road, with their roots exposed. Karl covered some of the tips of the branches with bits of plastic and clothing as a way to heal their wounds, ineffectually.

Karl Foster photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_13

Karl Foster, i vostri figli i ragazzi pairoli crea spazzatura, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Marco Fiorino (Cambridge) exhibited architectural mappings of in-between spaces connecting gardens and public urban spaces, having spent his time to explore historical gardens in and around Rome.

Marco Fiorino photo Elin_Karlsson2019_9

Marco Fiorino, Gardens for Third Nature, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Abigail Hampsey’s (Newcastle University) paintings contrasted the classical limestone framework with entwined fluorescent narratives and Remi Rana Allen (Chelsea, UAL) presented The Memoirs of Lady Vagina Dentata and Killer Queen, a Medusa’s head made of Indian hair extensions from Delhi placing ‘black hair and dark skin’ as protagonists within traditional Western myths.

Abighail Hampsey photo Elin_Karlsson2019

Abi Hampsey, don’t miss, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Remi Rana Allen photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_17

Remi Rana Allen, Killer Queen, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda’s (Architectural Association) four photographs of people and objects occupied an off-centre area near the doorway, reflecting her self-imposed challenge to understand and represent the use of public space in Rome.

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_1

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

These very different practices that somehow spoke to each other brought the façade, hidden for months behind scaffolding, to life within an expansive discourse. This was an internal event that took place in an external setting which meant that people walking by were intrigued and stopped to look at the works exhibited.

In the previous weeks Meaghan Stewart (Newcastle University) led a monoprint workshop with left-over paints from previous BSR residents, inviting anyone curious to drop into her studio, including scholars and architects. She encouraged the less expert through the steps, from how to ink the acetate or glass support, create designs for effect, and experiment with different techniques. Some of the monoprints were exhibited on a table under the portico, including work by Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita (Architectural Association) and Meaghan. The table featured small sculptures too, creating a miniature landscape for the prints.

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_5

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint (photo MC)

Meaghan Stewart, untitled (Fountain of Maremma), 2019 (photo: Martina Caruso)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint workshop (photo MC)

Monoprint workshop with Meaghan Stewart (photo: Martina Caruso)


Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)

Photography workshops

The past few months have been photographically eventful at the BSR, and while we have yet to set up a bona fide dark room, we appropriated the lavatories by the lecture theatre for an afternoon of impromptu printing.

On a sunny Saturday in March, Anna Brass (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture), David Whiting, a darkroom-based photographer and member of The Gate Darkroom in London, and Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries), organised a pinhole camera workshop: we hung black-out material over the bathroom door, set up the safe lamp and laid out three trays for the chemicals. To dry the prints, we made do with string and clothes pegs in the neighbouring cloak room. In spite of these rudimentary arrangements, some excellent results were achieved.

Fig. 1 Anna Brass BSR tennis court March 2019

BSR tennis court by Anna Brass.

The fourteen participants included scholars, artists and staff from the BSR and beyond: Mercedes Jaén joined from the Spanish Academy with professional British photographer Richard Davies. Jaén’s skilful experimentations picked up on unusual aspects of the Lutyens façade.

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BSR façade by Mercedes Jaén

Richard also achieved interesting results using his digital camera as a pinhole by removing the technical apparatus and turning it into a camera obscura, directly exposing the digital screen.

Fig. 3 Richard Davies In_the_dark_room

Richard Davies in the dark room

David Whiting’s pinhole camera was passed around as one of the most reliable for actually taking a photograph. Others transformed shoeboxes, tea boxes, and Anna Brass made her own nine-hole camera which doubled up as a miniature house.

Fig. 4 David Whiting using Anna Brass' nine hole pinhole camera

David Whiting using Anna Brass’ nine-hole pinhole camera.

In May, BSR archivist Alessandra Giovenco invited Tony Richards, a professional wet collodion plate photographer from The John Rylands Library (The University of Manchester), to give us a demonstration of this Victorian technique. Tony talked BSR scholars, artists, staff and patrons through his methods as well as how to avoid explosions and intoxications from the chemicals. Artist Kirtika Kain (National Art School, Sydney, Resident) became Tony’s assistant for the day observing that the workshop opened ‘a world of early photography so new to us: the chemistry, physicality and magic of each element. As an Australian-Indian artist, I couldn’t help but reflect on early colonial and ethnographic photography as I stood before the lens.’

Fig. 5 Kirtika Kain wet collodion workshop

Kirtika Kain poses for the camera.

David Whiting also found the workshop to be a ‘fantastic opportunity to discover one of the earliest photographic techniques for creating extremely high-quality images’ saying ‘I now feel confident about using the techniques in my own darkroom-based practice and exploring collodion’s rich artistic potential.’ Kirtika, David and Alessandra were able to create glass and metal-based prints of their own after learning about the theory.


Having to sit still for five to ten seconds means that the sitter’s stare acquires a holographic, slightly haunted quality which transpires in Victorian photographs, somehow bridging a gap with the past and helping us feel connected to some of the early practitioners and their subjects.

Fig. 7 Anna Brass Kirtika Kain and Stefania Peterlini wet collodion workshop portrait

Portrait of Anna Brass, Kirtika Kain, and Stefania Peterlini, using the wet collodion technique.


Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)

June Mostra 2019 / Meet the artists…Karin Ruggaber

As we approach the June Mostra, our third exhibition of this academic year, we are taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. The sixth interview is from Karin Ruggaber our Abbey Fellow in Painting.

So you’re making this sculpture on the wall with concrete. How long have you been working with this material, and why?

Yes, I’ve been working on this seascape relief here in the studio in Rome. I’ve been experimenting with concrete since 2005. It is like stone but it’s not stone. It presents a sort of instant geology. You can shape it and bring your imagination to it.

I like to work with architectural facades, and I’ve been making work that relates to architecture in the sense of how your body relates to architecture, how you stand with it physically and become immersed in it.

I think we understand objects with the whole body, beyond the visual sense.  It is something to do with touch and how we relate to scale and material, and move in space. The idea with my larger-scale pieces is that you move alongside them as you would move alongside a wall, navigating them with your body.

Karin Ruggaber studio

Karin Ruggaber, BSR studio, June 2019.

I was trying to reconcile this aesthetic with that of the fountain installation you made at the Romanian Academy.

Yes, they’re two different strands of my work. I saw the fountain at the Romanian Academy and instantly connected to this space. Ever since I came to Rome I had this revelation about water, although I was already working on marine subjects before. I like this subject matter, the idea of the aspiration of it, of escape, of the sea being this powerful force connected to identity. The many fountains in Rome are strangely magnetic sites, monuments but also functional water systems. There is definitely a sense of Italy, and its past as a naval power, being connected to the sea, in reality and mythologically. There are perhaps parallels with Britain and its past as a maritime empire.

I collaborated on a fountain piece with a friend of mine last year, working from an image of a nineteenth-century painting of a shipwreck and sirens and mythological creatures being sucked into the sea. There was a logic to do with the current political situation in Britain. The title of the painting is A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas with a Siren on the Rocks by the history painter Lacroix de Marseille.

There is an idea of a dark force, a seduction, something uncontrollable at work, stormy seas being of course a political metaphor too. As well as the temptations of nationalism, of mythological narratives.

Karin Ruggaber fountain installation (blue) Romanian Academy

Karin Ruggaber, Fontana del Nettuno, 2019. Wire, climbing rope, plastic, rubber, European palm, Bay tree, Cypresse, Olive, Rose, grass, wheat, European pine. Spazi Aperti XVII, Accademia di Romania in Roma.

Would you say your inspiration is derived from nineteenth-century epic painting rather than a direct experience of the sea?

Maybe both. I’ve been looking at figuration and ornamentation around water and marine life in Rome, in the fabric of the city, historic as well as contemporary. I’m fascinated by ports, such as the one in Naples for example. I was in a group show recently in a seaside resort in Britain, at Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, and I like the figuration around seaside resorts.

Fountain where

Michele Tripisciano, Fontana del Tritone del Commune di Marino, 1889. Piazza San Barnaba, Marino Laziale.

I wouldn’t say my interest in historical painting is tied to a particular period but it’s connected to the representation of a force. I like it when it becomes hyper-figurative, like many of the siren paintings of the late 1800s, early 1900s, when mythology ventures towards superstition, and the non-rational. I became quite interested in Neptune Fountains, and I have tried to see as many as possible. My favourite one so far is by the Sicilian nineteenth-century sculptor Michele Tripisciano in Marino Laziale, an hour south of Rome (it’s a twin fountain, the other one is in his home town in Sicily), and of course Neptune overlooking the port in Naples.

Neptune Naples maybe

Fontana Del Nettuno, Napoli, 1600, Domenico Fontana, Michelangelo Naccherino, Angelo Landi and Pietro Bernini. Piazza Municipio, Napoli.

I’m also interested in representation from the fascist era in Italy, and I just got a book out on Mario Sironi, La Grande Decorazione, with all these incredible murals. There’s something about how the narrative is stacked and literally builds an image or a relief sculpture on a building. I’m planning to go and see a fountain and a mural representing an underwater landscape and seascape in Naples, in the Mostra d’Oltremare, an exhibition area similar to E.U.R. conceived as a world exhibition in the 1930s and then reinvigorated after the war in the 1950s.

My fountain installation at the Romanian Academy integrates architecture and image and some kind of story-telling aspect, but also other things: it is a kind of re-working of a Neptune Fountain and presents a mixture between debris and ornament, it has elements of a rescue situation at sea, or an aftermath of something, perhaps a storm. It is a sort of anti-monument. When I started the water was an aqua blue colour and it has now become a lurid green because algae have grown in the hot weather. I like how the elements change it. I have been working with it and developing it for the duration of the exhibition, during which time, the weather has shifted from thunderstorms and rain to 35-degree heat.

The piece changes all the time and becomes difficult to maintain because it’s eroding in the water and functions with the weather, and that’s also what I like.

Karin Ruggaber fountain installation (blue 2) Romanian Academy

Karin Ruggaber, Fontana del Nettuno, 2019. Wire, climbing rope, plastic, rubber, European palm, Bay tree, Cypresse, Olive, Rose, grass, wheat, European pine. Spazi Aperti XVII, Accademia di Romania in Roma.

Does this have something to with climate change?

I suppose you can read a sense of crisis into the image of it, but I don’t set out to make issue-based work. For me there is a sense of urgency with these pieces and they speak of internal states, which inevitably speak of external situations. I’m interested in the direct experience with the work, its undercurrents, maybe the unspeakable side of it, not the headlines. And that is connected to the elements and to weather as an emotional landscape. And yet again, it is connected in the overall atmosphere perhaps because of the wider political landscape of chaos we’re finding ourselves in at the moment. There is something about grief perhaps, I’m interested in the translation of difficulty, of emotional states.

Since being in Rome I’ve been drawn to the idea of the fountain as a continuous flow of water, invigorating, restless but still, and transformative, and I have researched a little bit about the Roman Acqua Vergine system too.

I’m interested in the physical impact of something and clash between image and architecture. It’s connected to a kind of trauma in a way. Italy seems to have processed the Fascist period in a completely different way to Germany for example. In Italy you get a different glimpse and angle into this time period.

So much was destroyed in Germany, and has also become unspeakable, and maybe for me it’s also something I’ve been interested in because of my own family’s trauma from that period.

Karin Ruggaber with fountain installation, the Romanian Academy 2019

Karin with her installation at the Accademia di Romania. Photo: Jonathan Kim.

Karin’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 14 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 June 2019, closed Sundays.

Interview by Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries) . Photos by Karin Ruggaber unless otherwise stated.














June Mostra 2019/ Meet the artists…Jade Ching-yuk Ng

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 and resident architecture fellow. The first to be interviewed is Jade Ching-yuk Ng, our Abbey Scholar in Painting.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

More than humans_Jade Ching-yuk_Ng

More than humans, 2018, linocut, monotype, caran d’ache, gouache, ink on artist-made board, 89,5x70cm

Have you already started to work for the June Mostra?

I’m trying to make two paintings of 190x150cm, but its going to be a lot of work. I would like to have two tapestries of the same colour. Well, like monochrome, so eliminating the colour form that I have made from the previous ones to have a balance, completely monochrome and it is just about lines and shapes.

For the previous one I’ve just finished, I want to make a skateboard base because I want to challenge the flatness of printmaking or painting and making it into a new interpretation of seeing a painting in different dimensions, which is the flatness coming off or out of the wall. The skateboard slide is a reference to the arches that I have seen everywhere in the city and they are highly decorated with figures and intensive imagery.

The characters I’m using are still from my day-to-day life stories, there is a repetition of conversations and I extend the characters into something else. I would say my work is like a milkshake and I really tried not to make it too much of a narrative illustration, I would like people to feel they get to somewhere but all of a sudden they find something else happening in the same space. There is a constant pulling and pushing of a visual distract.


Venetian clock, 2019, linocut, monotypes, gouache, ink, plaster on artist-made board, 89,5x70cm


Your prints are full of elements from the world of machinery, often connected to mechanical clockworks. Can you talk about their significance in you work?

In relation to the mechanical elements, I want to question the relationship between the body and our future. Machinery will dominate our future and how we could separate ourselves from that in order to guard our emotion and body as a human.

I always feel I am running out of time, I don’t have much time left. Sometimes I feel my work is challenging how to bring something beyond the time. A lot of people at the March Mostra questioned how I relate myself to history and time and the relation to history and how I relate to now. It is actually beyond time, that is something quite difficult to achieve, I think it will probably take my whole life. The quantity of time actually becomes quite timeless because there is a repetition of it when you start thinking about it all the time.

Room 2002_Jade Ching-yuk_Ng

Room 2002, 2018, linocut, monotype, caran d’ache, gouache, ink on artist-made board, 89,5x70cm

Jade’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 14 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 June 2019, closed Sundays.

Interview by Marta Pellerini (Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator). Photos Antonio Palmieri and courtesy of the artist.

Drawing in Academic Practice 

Earlier this month award-holders Caroline Barron (Rome Awardee) and Anna Brass (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture) held an experimental drawing workshop for academics who work on material culture. Here they tell us about how the idea for the workshop came about and where they hope to take the project in the future.


Drawing in Academic Practice workshop, April 2019. Photo: Anna Brass.

Caroline: Anna and I became friends over the course of the winter semester at the BSR; from October to December 2018 I was resident as a Rome Awardee, and Anna was – and continues to be until September this year – the Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture. Although we had chatted over dinner and during various excursions, it wasn’t until Anna and Holly Hendry, the Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art, coordinated the costume effort for the annual Halloween party at the American Academy that we really had a chance to talk in depth.

Anna: Caroline came to my studio in the afternoon of the party – we had to construct her costume quite quickly because it was the last one to do and we didn’t have much time. So, I made her help me paint it. We were working from a picture of a Roman cinerary urn with a fake inscription on her phone, and I did one row of lettering whilst she did another. Caroline was hesitant about painting – she didn’t want to muck it up – but I encouraged her to just look at the letters and paint, and not to worry too much about making it look perfect.

CB: Replicating epigraphic text in what appeared to be a scarily free way was unnerving to begin with; I wanted the letters to be exact representations of those in the stone inscription, but as I started painting I began to relax, and to isolate particular characteristics of the letters that stood out to me. Rather than focusing on proportionally accurate depictions of the letters, I allowed myself to pick up on specific details, and to paint them in an uninhibited way.

AB: Caroline did a top job and the costume was ace. We rolled up to the American Academy looking super cool in our homemade costumes and thoroughly enjoyed the attention from the other guests. After that Caroline and I became firm friends and we went on trips to museums, including to the Capitoline where I made her do some more drawings.


BSR award-holders at Halloween

CB: The afternoon we spent drawing in the Capitoline Museums remains one of my happiest memories from the BSR. Anna equipped me with a sketchbook and a crayon – not a medium I was particularly familiar with – and directed me to draw various aspects of the objects on display, such as the negative space between two Attic vases, and – my personal favourite – a dog in an Etruscan relief. I found these exercises so much fun, and they helped me to break away from the idea of drawing as something that had to be executed exactly. Anna encouraged me to look at the form of the shapes I was drawing, and to feel the connection between my hand and my eye as I drew them.

Fast forward to April and we’ve just led a drawing workshop at the BSR for academics who work with material culture. The Halloween costume and the Capitoline drawings turned into a discussion about how drawing makes you look at objects, and the differences between the ways that academics and artists approach visual and material culture. The workshop was a real experiment for us, an exploratory exercise that did not have at its base a particular question that we were trying to answer, but rather a trial run at how productive the use of various drawing techniques might be in academic practice.


Having invited some borsisti, Research Fellows, artists and friends who work on architecture and material culture, the workshop started with a series of warm-up drawings that were designed to immediately increase their confidence. Participants had to draw the person opposite them without looking at their paper, and then again but this time drawing with both hands simultaneously. Next, we drew objects from around the BSR – cups, pot plans, things from Anna’s studio – with the amount of time decreasing from 60 seconds, to 30, 20, 15, and finally 5.


Timed drawings

Timed drawings

After the warm-ups came a longer drawing in the cortile; the participants were each given a view of the space to draw. We went from drawing an object in 5 seconds to drawing a complete scene in half an hour, with the focus on using charcoal to think about texture and shadow. There’s very strong light in the cortile, as well as lots of ferns, which make really lovely angular shadows on the pebbles.

Chris and Olivia

Drawing in the cortile

A favourite exercise of the afternoon was a collaborative drawing session; six images were laid out with six pieces of paper and a range of crayons and charcoals. Each participant had 30 seconds to draw from that image before moving one place to the right to continue work on the next image. The result was a series of drawings in which it was impossible to tell who had made what mark.

4 collaborative drawings

Collaborative drawing

The day ended with a discussion session, in which we talked about how successful the different exercises had been and what the participants had – and had not – found most useful in these new approaches to looking at objects. We then set up a small exhibition, selecting some of our favourite pieces from the day and celebrating the results of the workshop as a whole body of work.


Exhibition and rinfresco. Photo: Stefania Peterlini.

The workshop was a really interesting experiment for us both; we’ve had lots of ideas about how to take it forward and remain convinced that drawing can, and should, be a vital part of academic questioning about objects and buildings and the forms that they take. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the workshop was the extent to which our brilliant participants were ready to – or in some cases have already – include drawing in their research, which was clear from the confidence and assurance with which they approached some of the exercises. It would be interesting to see how academics working with less obviously ‘drawable’ materials, such as manuscripts or musical scores, might engage with the same exercises too, which has given us food for thought for the next workshop. Drawing in Academic Practice is an ongoing project….expect to hear more from us about it soon!

Caroline Barron & Anna Brass