Earlier this month BSR Assistant Directors Peter Campbell, Martina Caruso and Harriet O’Neill gave a lecture in London at the British Academy examining the origins of the British School at Rome and the pathway forward into the BSR’s twelfth decade.
Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences: I wanted to use my section to think about why the BSR was conceived as an interdisciplinary institution and how this aspiration worked in practice. In researching this I discovered that the key moment was the move to what had been the British Pavilion at the International Fine Arts Exhibition held in 1911. This is known but what surprised me was the level of BSR involvement in the exhibition itself, particularly the archaeological and ‘historical’ parts of the show which were held elsewhere in Rome.
Martina Caruso, Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries: For my section of the lecture I presented the latest interdisciplinary work that the artists and scholars undertook together as part of a reflection on Brexit and the wider political climate. The workshop resulted in a series of printed flags for the March Mostra which were hoisted on the rooftop during the opening of the exhibition.
In terms of my personal research I’ve been exploring photography by women archaeologists who were working in the Mediterranean at the turn of the last century, a time when the so-called historical sciences like geology, palaeontology and archaeology were gathering momentum but were still very much a man’s world. Among these women I’ve been examining Agnes and Dora Bulwer’s photographs, which are conserved at the BSR archives, and the way in which they adopted the survey style on archaeological field trips while often deviating from that style to photograph the environment, their travelling companions and the people they met. I’m interested in tracing the lives of these women through the photographs they took, since very little is known about them from other sources.
From the Bulwer collection, courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives
Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science: For my section of the lecture, I examined the BSR’s archaeological development from horse-drawn carts to drones. Since 1901 the BSR has been an innovator and early adopter of new methods, from Thomas Ashby’s photography to today’s geophysics. I concluded my time by discussing the future trajectories of the BSR and how our new research strategies will prepare for the next century.
Alumni, Members and friends at the reception following the lecture
As part of our March Mostra Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Anna Brass
(Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture) about Brexit, a fourteenth-century Diabolical Englishman, and mortadella…
Can you explain your process of working?
I make films, drawings, paintings and sculptures. The films always emerge from an intensive process of making, so at the moment I’m making a film but I’m working out all of my ideas through sculpture and drawing.
I look at a lot of images, which is what feeds everything I make. There’s so much to see in Rome – all of the mosaics and frescos and buildings, but also things on the street, like drawings on walls, shop signs, potholes. Seeing these things has generated a lot of work -I’ve made a big slice of mortadella, some Byzantine feet, a palazzo carpet…
Can you tell us a bit more about what you’ve been working on?
I’m making a film about a fourteenth-century English mercenary called John Hawkwood, who was born in Essex in 1320. He spent a lot of time as a soldier in France and when he was about 40 he came to Italy, and he spent the rest of his life there working as a condottiere. There’s a fresco painting of him by Paolo Uccello in the cathedral in Florence, which I saw a few years ago. And I read a book about him by Frances Stonor Saunders called Diabolical Englishman, which is a really visual and beautifully written book, and reading it generated so many images in my head.
The film I’m making now isn’t about Hawkwood the man, it’s not about his character or biography at all, I’m not really interested in that. I’m interested in what was happening around him – the swirl of violence and money and religious belief. I think Hawkwood will just be this elusive, shape-shifting figure in the midst of everything.
What are you going to show in March Mostra?
I’m going to show some of the sculptures I’ve made, which relate to the strange spaces in early Renaissance paintings. I’m really keen on predella panels, which are sometimes at the bottom of paintings and show scenes from the life of a saint, often in quite strange architectural spaces or structures. I like the shifting scale between people and buildings and rocks.
Can you tell me about the Brexit project you have been working on?
Yes – Dillwyn [Smith, Abbey Fellow in Painting] and I have been making plans for this Brexit project. We have made flags that we are flying on the BSR flagpoles, and we did a Brexit workshop that was open to people from the BSR and from other institutions. We made lots of salt dough and asked people to make objects in relation to Brexit, trying to give a body to quite abstract concepts. They made things like a full English Brexit, a Maybot, lots of pigs – all of these emblems of Brexit made of salt dough.
And what about the post-it notes that were part of the workshop?
Yeah, these were written soundbites, which aren’t in the mostra but they’re the lynchpin of everything. The whole project revolves around these bizarre soundbites from the news on Radio 4, which we listen to in the studio. It’s not about a single Brexit phrase it’s about the tidal wave of Brexit chatter and how overwhelming it is, and how impenetrable, the manic talking around it and no traction. I don’t think the project is about being for or against Brexit, it’s just a tornado of mania, as felt from quite far away – still being in Europe but being relatively far away from home.
The workshop turned out quite differently to what we had planned because we hadn’t taken into account the language and culture barrier with friends from other academies. I was really struggling to explain what the phrases meant, like the Danny Dyer line ‘in Nice with his trotters up’, and to explain the recurring motifs like pigs and pig-gate, and robots.
Also, just seeing my mortadella sculpture, there is a theme of meat, and pigs, and ham in my work, which I think is being amplified by David Cameron and Brexit.
How does this all relate back to your Hawkwood film?
For me there is this link between contemporary politics and meat. There’s pig-gate and the bacon sandwich, but also climate change, horse meat and the posh burger. Italian meat is quite different to English meat. I’m a vegetarian, but the meat shops in Italy are really beautiful, and the mortadella in particular is beautiful as well as being slightly gross.
There was a popular rebellion in Florence in 1378 called the Ciompi revolt, which was crushed in-part by the guild of butchers. I want to somehow include this in my film, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what the emblems of the guild of butchers might look like and how I might make them.
Anna’s work is currently being exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in March Mostra. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 March 2019..
Interview by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager). Photos courtesy of the artist.
As part of our March Mostra Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Dan Popa
(Québec Resident) about taking a break from film and going back to analogue photography.
You’re a filmmaker but during this residency you are focusing mostly on photography. Is this a prelude to a new film to develop in the future?
The decision came naturally. I brought my photography camera because first of all the equipment is lighter, but I can still use motion picture film. Just from a practical standpoint it’s also a way for me to sketch during my residency. I knew I wasn’t going to make necessarily a body of work, but I knew I wanted to keep sketching.
As I went along and developed the contact sheets, which basically map out your entire roll of film on a piece of paper, sticking them together I really start seeing a narrative or a potential film that could happen from these stills. I’ve worked before where I’ve used still photography in filming so with adding sound and keeping timing in you’re able to make a film just made out of stills. The more I look at it the more I think the outcome will be perhaps a film just because I’ve amassed a lot of things, a lot of really interesting moments, and a lot of moments where I was able to go back and forth to the same locations and re-photograph what I was missing.
Just before coming here I had recently finished a film that had taken me four years to finish, with the last year editing on a computer. I really felt like I wanted to like keep film maybe a little bit off for like two seconds and just start looking again.
What are you showing at the mostra?
What I’m showing at the mostra is something I don’t usually do, but I’d like to use some of this photography perhaps for a film but also as a standalone book because a book does offer a linear narrative, you just take away the sound and take away the amount of time that each image is displayed for – because that’s what film is, it’s saying there’s an in and out point, seven seconds to watch this, two seconds to watch this… so for the mostra I’ve been printing out a couple of pictures and putting them side by side and seeing how they have a correlation and how they could exist both in a film format, but also in a printed book format.
So it almost starts off as an experimental film, there might be some text, there might not be some text, but for now I just wanted to keep it with the visuals, so it starts off with two nuns by the beach, sort of photographing it and then life in the sun… I’ve really been looking a lot at light in Rome, especially the winter light which I’ve been really interested in… this lovely family visiting Pompeii in a virtual reality world, and from there I’m kind of questioning what is their dream…
I’m going to display them laid out on the table…they’re very fragile so I don’t want people to touch them too much because they are maquettes in a sense. Also laying them out like this gives the notion that the work is still on the table, a work in progress, it’s not ready yet for putting up.
Some of them I’ve got printed by master printers here in the neighbourhood, printed directly from 35 mm negatives. They are a second generation printers so they really have a different skill.
What do you prefer as subjects? Here in Rome for example do you prefer photographing people, or architecture and archaeology?
I did come with the idea of doing something more about the architecture aspects but then I always try to think what does the place dictate for me as well. People are very present, even people who are motionless, so yes I am interested a lot in faces but also in textures, the way light falls on Rome, so it’s really day in day out as I started getting these images and then when you start putting them together for me that it starts having a bit of a narrative.
This for example is the warehouse where they keep all the props for Cinecittà, but then I photographed the ones in Pompeii and they looked faker than the fake ones. So there’s always this play a little bit around the real and the staged and how the real can look less real than the fake.
When I arrived here I started filming the last day of Christmas, so the procession and the parade near the Vatican. I’ll be showing a short film I’ve made from that and right now I’m doing the sound mix and the final touches for it, so I think that’s what I’ll be showing at the mostra.
You came across the book Rome + Klein in the BSR Library, a photobook by William Klein. Are your photobooks a response to that?
Klein came here exactly 60 years ago to work on a Fellini film which was very much delayed so he actually spent three months photographing Rome. He photographed sets, and he also had a couple of fashion gigs that he included as well, so it’s a bit of a journal, a bit of an itinerary. He talks about this intensity of photographing in such a short amount of time and I’ve kind of used him as my spiritual guide, knowing that I too only have three months. So I’m not trying to replicate, I don’t assume to be at the level of William Klein’s work. I’m just trying to see how something could be revisited 60 years later.
Is any of Rome going to come into your Le Corbusier film?
Rome comes into it very little. I went back to some of the places that Le Corbusier visited. Oddly enough his first day in Rome ever was in 1911 and he spent time at the Villa Giulia sketching pictures, and that was as they were building the British School at Rome which is right across from there, so it was cool to find that connection.
And what about the photographs you have been taking of BSR life?
So in parallel I’ve been photographing BSR residents and then some of the visits like when we went to Pompeii, and when we went to the Lateran, and then Alessandra Giovenco, the archivist, allowed me to see some of the BSR archives, and it really is important to keep stuff documented, print a few things, and leave some stuff in the archives, because if I’m able to pick up a photo from say 1911 today, it’s because someone went to the effort of doing that. So at some point I would like to print some of these pictures and put them in a box for the BSR because I think you don’t realise the importance of an archive until it’s too late. And that’s the part of photography that’s really fantastic too, is seeing how it ages with time.
Dan’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in March Mostra, opening Friday 15 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 March 2019, closed Sundays.
Interview by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager). Photos courtesy of the artist.
Ahead of the March Mostra, for the first in our Meet the Artists series we spoke to Lucy Meyle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Award) about her interest in plants and non-human animals, and how dialogues of fashion, wearability, space and luxury come into her work.
What has been your project in Rome and how much have you deviated from your original ideas?
I came with a project based around the idea of syntax. I wanted to think about small rearrangements within language that might have larger effects on meaning, and how that relates to the configuration or ordering of images/installations/sculptures both conceptually and materially. But I think I always knew that once I arrived in Rome, I was comfortable to essentially throw away the plan, though I think the core of my interest in slight alterations or slight irritants does remain.
I’ve actually been surprised how strongly connected the project has become to fashion and to the connected dialogues around wearability, space, and luxury. Partially this is because there’s a really pragmatic thing about being able to fold sculptures down and take them home. But even this brings up questions to me about rescinded spaces, flexible spaces, or treacherous spaces. I’ve been interested in connecting these kinds of notions to how we think about plants and non-human animals.
Where does your interest in animals stem from?
I grew up with animals around, so it’s been a very ‘ordinary’ feeling thing throughout my whole life. A friend of mine who didn’t have any pets growing up once asked me whether he needed to formally greet my family’s cat when he arrived at our house. It struck me then as such an alien way to consider the animal-human relationship, but now it still sticks in my memory as a perfect moment of re-syntaxation – a re-ordering of the usual way I had thought of doing something so as to make it strange anew. I have been quite interested in care and support and the extension of those actions into sculpture and installation, but more recently plants and non-human animals have come into my work as a way to more directly engage with my sadness and anxiety about ecological issues and climate change.
Snail ramp demonstration video (2018) Still from video featuring garden snails, duration: 09:48
How would you qualify your philosophical or political position? Do you feel close to post-humanism?
I think it’s really tangled up for me. I’m wary of aligning it with any particular movement of philosophy, particularly something which envisages itself as being ‘beyond’ something, so I feel quite invested in the idea of being entangled with other beings, other things, other kinds of timescapes. What does that mean in terms of an ethical commitment to acting in the now? In terms of political/philosophical theorists I enjoy reading Sara Ahmed, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, and would say that they have deeply affected the way I consider making works, either as a single artist or within a collaboration, or within a community.
Shell inlay table and chair set (with peanuts #1-586) (detail) (2018) Plywood, peanuts, scrap melamine, pencil, H:750 L:2200 W:1150
What in particular has fed into your work during your residency?
It has been an exercise in layering, I suppose. Seeing things out on the street is very important for me, being outside and noticing certain things. Like the Vespa covers that everybody has where you put your hands inside it when it’s raining. It’s like both a cover for a scooter, and also something to keep the rain off your hands. Often they’re too big or the wrong shape for the particular motor scooter and they’re slipping off or bunching up. And things like people putting plastic bags around their plants to keep them warm over winter on their patios, or the very swagged curtains that are in the windows of hotels and restaurants, or the plush animals people stuff into their car gloveboxes.
Also seeing Pino Pascali sculptures for the first time, researching fashion or fashion-adjacent practitioners Elsa Schiaparelli, Elsa Peretti, and Cinzia Ruggeri, as well as glass artists Ercole Barovier and Fulvio Bianconi.
And then talking with people like Rodney [Cross, Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar] who’s doing work around conceptions and descriptions of animal sounds in ancient texts and having to interpret what that means back into how we think about those animals, how they thought about those animals, and what are the crossovers. So drawing together those things, it becomes a constellation of images, texts, moments, that I then draw together materially.
You are interested in the concept of translation – how has it been for you living in a different country where English isn’t the dominant language?
I was reading this text by Walter Benjamin called The Task of the Translator, and in it he talks about the original as being like a fruit in its skin, and then once you translate something the form becomes big and heavy like a robe, it kind of envelops original meaning. I like this idea of a baggy idea, there being both freedom of movement but also something that can trip you up really easily. And I think that comes into it too, the idea of the really ‘baggy’ word that doesn’t translate well. The obvious word to me is ‘prego’ where I have absolutely no idea what it means… yet somehow I know what it means. It’s this totally amorphous word, that no matter how many times I hear it, or look it up on Google ‘what does prego mean’ I don’t have any solid concept. It is still very squishy. That is the best place, for me. Where even though you’ve managed to touch around the edges of something, you have nothing solid – surprise remains likely.
Studio table at the BSR, 2019
Can you tell us about what you are showing in March Mostra?
I’ve made a series of wearable things based on this idea of bagginess, when something spacious can take a turn. For example, you can buy special gloves to put on tights so that you don’t make runs with your fingernails — they’re very loose generally because you’re trying not to pierce anything, but they almost seem like they would be more difficult to do anything with. It seems like you might become clumsier or it would become more difficult to put on the tights wearing these gloves than it would be just to put on the tights. So that’s my starting point, things that perhaps feel nice, feel luxurious, but can slip into a different register. There is also a one-page publication with a series of short texts, which is free to take away.
Lucy’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in March Mostra, opening Friday 15 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 March 2019, closed Sundays.
Interview by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager). Photos courtesy of the artist.
Green Wallspine (Villa Carpegna) was made in Rome during my Abbey Fellowship in Painting. October – December 2019.
Our first Abbey Fellow in Painting for 2018-19 Simon Callery is now back in the UK and showing some of his work from his BSR residency at the ongoing Jonah Jones Centennial Exhibition. In this blog Simon tells us about his process for making Green Wallspine (Villa Carpegna) which was first shown at December Mostra.
During my fellowship I had plans to take my canvas out onto the streets of the historic city centre and work directly in contact with the hard surfaces of the walls and streets. After days of looking for potential sites I realized that this was going to be impossible and I wouldn’t be able to work in such a busy and well-protected environment.
I decided to approach it in another way. One morning I took the metro east to Battistini in the suburbs, the last stop on the A line, with the intention of finding somewhere quiet to work whilst walking back to the BSR in Parioli. The folded canvas I was carrying had already been coloured with chromium oxide pigment and rabbit skin glue size.
On the busy Circonvallazione Aurelia, a noisy main road leading back into town, I found an entrance off the thoroughfare into the Villa Carpegna. I was in a walled urban park. In an overlooked corner of the park a redundant set of stone steps led up to a bricked-in aperture in the wall. I was able to put my canvasses on these steps and mark and puncture them. I worked quickly and in response to the broken surfaces I could feel under the fabric.
Now I had some material with scratches and holes – a record of physical contact with the city. Back in the studio, I cut and sewed these canvasses into four distinct parts and incorporated a step into the proportions. I made four small wood brackets to support them, next to one another, at 90° to the wall.
Researching the site of my work I found out that Villa Carpegna had been built on farmland acquired by Cardinal Gaspare Carpegna in 1684 and subsequently developed by architect Giovanni Antonio di Rossi. It was acquisitioned by the Comune di Roma in 1978 and it now houses the Quadriennale di Roma, an organization set up to support and promote contemporary Italian art.
Oona Grimes (Bridget Riley Fellow 2017–18) started 2019 with two solo exhibitions featuring work made during her residency last year. In this blog Oona discusses her Rome experience and the genesis of the work made. Oona also describes her adventures in film-making and what comes next.
I arrived in Rome on 2nd January 2018 with the sound tracks of Nights of Cabiria and Roma Citta Apertà playing in my head.
I was on my way to revisit the films of the Neorealists, films I’d watched as a child and misremembered ever since.
Day 2: returning from a Cavallini eye fest I stumbled into Il Museo di Roma in Trastevere and met Toto…..Italy’s most loved and respected and irreverent comedian.
Toto agreed to become my leading man.
The giant story board began……..
He starred in a number of stencil drawings: drawings on black paper celebrating the flatness of frescoes, blackness of analogue film & badly restored conservation patches:
‘Toto & le tre sorelle Fontana’, ‘Toto meets San Bartolomeo’ & later ‘cinzano & cherry soda’ & ‘the lovely season’.
Just Being on the streets of Rome I was surrounded by the cast, all in mid flow enacting their daily dramas.
I had arrived with specific Missions – visits to Cinecittà and plunderings of the archives at Centro Sperimentale; time to spend with the Etruscans and my love of their graphic flattist tomb paintings, all of which were topped and tiramisu-ed by anamorphic murals in Trinità dei Monti, underground scavi-scavenging in San Giovanni in Laterano – adventures from Mithras to Mussolini, Etruscans to E.U.R. toga tying, fascist fountains all the fascinating tangents that emerge from the kind of casual conversations that can only happen at the BSR.
Rewatching the films from Rossellini to late Fellini on their home pitch I wanted to understand the films more intensely, and my way of knowing is though drawing.
Daily I would make A4 coloured pencil drawings from my mis-memories of films watched as a child; fast drawings ‘Not a Neorealist Storyboard’ and larger slower stencil drawings continually circumnavigating the left brain: ’the fumetti grrrrls’ and ‘ragazze e ragazzi romani’. Filling notebooks in order to make sense of the overwhelming input and to ground myself in the sea of visual treats. The pile of books grew daily; the gestures & observations, colours and pattern, the folds & drapes of melty marble all subtly oozing into the drawings – a thesaurus of stolen characters.
Daily I would walk to Piazza Rotunda & beyond, just to Be in Rome, early before the crowds; to watch the roadsweepers and shopkeepers setting up, to see the light changing over the city.
Gradually those walks and those films wove themselves into my dreams and my drawings.
Surprising shifts began to happen.
Particular scenes began to haunt me, sequences with specific relevance to time and place. I began drawing singular actions and repeating them in order to comprehend them. Repeated actions, drawing them now physically, drawing myself into the film.
‘Umberto d.’ headlined the series, the scene where he is reduced to begging in front of the Pantheon. A deceptively simple action duplicated and filmed over 3 months as the skies changed and the tourists crept in.
i.phone rushes that usually end up on the cutting room floor. Rehearsals. I wasn’t acting I was drawing the moment.
They just happened, they happened by being there, by having time, by having no pressures or deadlines.
I saw them as studies, and just cut them together as if watching behind the scenes preparation.
Looping slapstick-like fragments, stretching the commedia dell’arte element by repetition and abstraction, a Sisyphean rehearsal for a never to be released film. Owning the discourse through mis-remembering, imitation and low tech re- enactment.
The scenes from familiar films chose me, and following ‘Umberto d’, ‘mozzarella in carrozza’ from Bicycle Thieves emerged. Focussing 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.
The studio became a mini props, production design & costume department. The planning behind Stromboli’s Bucket was perhaps more interesting than the final mini short : fabricating a glass bottomed bucket, negotiating hardware shops and perspex manufacturers, locating a suitable ‘Sea’ : the Laghetto di Villa Borghese which of course was chiuso on the day due to storms, so a nearby fountain quickly stepped in as understudy for the shoot.
Then ‘u.e.u.’ from Pasolini’s ‘Uccellacci e Uccellini’ filmed in Garbatella. Bird calls haunted me in the studio, their repetitive song & dawn chorus invaded my dreams. ‘u.e u.’ is a sublime dance of mis-communication, mis-translation, absurd jumpy hand gestures referencing both kinesics 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.
Walking, watching, hand gestures, sign language, language of hands, mis-translation, mis-communication, bird language, dance language.
Drapes and folds, pleats and drapes, fabric fashion folds all seeping into the work
Returning to London with a new-found confidence and focus I made 2 new films : ‘Oscar’s dance’ and ‘wheres Marcello?’ The latter shot on Holkham beach Norfolk a cross channel reflection of Sabaudia. ‘Angelo del fango’ now fulfilling her role and Cabiria dancing her dreams in Hackney.
The one-day schedule remained, initially the time my cameraman came to visit in Rome, but appropriated to retain an element of rawness and rehearsal-ness, using costumes and props that were instantly available.
And I won a prize! My first film festival entry at The Swedenborg Film Festival with ‘u.e u.’ and a prize selected and presented by the wonderful and sadly missed Susan Hiller [1940-2019].
All six films were shown at Matt’s Gallery London on mini i.pads. Hand held like reading a paperback book, one to one, sitting on the floor : ‘Hail the new Etruscan #2’ : 19-27 Jan 2019.
And the giant story board is on show at Danielle Arnaud co art London : ‘Hail the new Etruscan #1’ : 12 January – 9 February.
‘ragazze e ragazzi Romani’, large stencil drawings patched and collaged filling the Georgian house with Italian characters.
Next ………. A solo show at The Bower in Camberwell 5 June – 7 July 2019 and an off-site adventure at The Venice Biennale in May (contact Danielle Arnaud for details).
Oona’s exhibition ‘Hail the new Etruscan #1’ is open at Danielle Arnaud until 9 February 2019 (123 Kennington Road London SE11 6SF, T/F: +44 (0)20 7735 8292), the gallery is open Thursday, Friday & Saturday 2-6 p.m. or by appointment. Oona Grimes is represented by Danielle Arnaud.
As part of our December Mostra Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Jade Ching-yuk Ng (Abbey Scholar in Painting) about forgotten architecture, voids, and authenticity.
You work in painting and printmaking, and your interest lies in deconstructing symbolism within history and real-life characters and making them part of fictions. Which direction is this interest taking in a city like Rome, where there is a constant struggle between history and real life?
Snakes, shells, arrows, sun, chariots, horses…and naked roman goddesses seduce many people because of their ubiquity around the city. These symbols were once the idols of superstitious believers, similar to today’s repetitive advertisement on YouTube, a form of propaganda. By communicating via specific icons the audience is compelled to believe in another product or figure.
Rome seems to me to be a man-made metaphysical playground, where iconic figures can be found just lying around. The painted marbles inside churches give the illusion of surface but do not allow us to penetrate into the centre of the material. A historical city could become just another simulation.
The past has always held power over people’s spiritual beliefs, and Rome’s overloaded classicism overpowers reality. I am not sure what to think when people relate Rome to Aristotle’s metaphysics. I often question how to perceive symbolism not by considering the physical objects themselves but rather by taking a virtual bird’s eye view of the city and turning into a pataphysical form. In particular our visit to Santa Maria sopra Minerva made me wonder how we could not only travel into the frames within the frames of the frescoes visually, but also pull ourselves back to any frames we want – then we would really have the freedom to see beyond the history that is given.
Another struggle might be the ‘authenticity’ of materials at ancient sites. The trip to Ostia Antica made me think about the importance of ‘fake’ and ‘real’. The old brick and the new brick gradually submerge into one. Authenticity is not restricted to a certain time period, but should be seen as a progressive change over time.
Split, linocut, monotype, caran d’ache, acrylic, ink on paper mounted on artist-made board, 89.5x70cm, 2018.
Is there a specific sculpture/character/piece of architecture that has particularly inspired you in these past three months?
I have been particularly inspired by Manzù’s rather violent bronze reliefs at St Peter’s Basilica where they are placed at the front gate before walking into the church. I was intrigued by how a religious place could manipulate your emotions. If I were to caricature religion, it would be as the pigeon lady outside Piazza del Popolo.
I also enjoyed looking at Giuseppe Perugini’s Casa Sperimentale. It is a real shame that it is abandoned now but it does make us aware of the forgotten architecture beyond classicism.
The moulding workshop at Cinecittà impressed me so much, especially after talking to the props maker whose family has worked there for three generations since the Mussolini era. It is incredible getting to know how they casted from the original sculptures and reproduced them for a film set. When you walk into his workshop, it reminded me of a blow-up Rome with collages of fragments lying around, piling on top of each other. The gigantic fingers and the tiniest heads all morphed into a room that becomes a toy town. The experience of weaving through his workshop gave me the sensation of looking at objects using a zoom-in and zoom-out lens to picture the random displaced relationship between the props and me.
Last but not least, the relationship between the mouth and the staircase in the Parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo fascinates me, where the monster’s mouth turns into a frame, which is the enlarged body part, encouraging you to walk into the space physically but once you enter, it is only the void.
The chariot fell into Jacuzzi labyrinth, linocut, monotype, caran d’ache, gouache, ink on paper mounted on artist-made board, 89.5x70cm, 2018.
Jade Ching-yuk Ng (Abbey Scholar in Painting)
Jade’s work is currently on show alongside the six other resident artists in December Mostra, opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 December 2018.