A look back at the March Mostra 2018

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

Josephine Baker-Heaslip (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)


Marie-Claire Blais (Québec Resident)


Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)


Gabriel Hartley (Abbey Fellow in Painting)


John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

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Joseph Redpath (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)


John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)


Deborah Rundle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee)


Photos by Roberto Apa


March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Joseph Redpath

As we approach the March Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architecture fellow. Our last interview is with Joseph Redpath, our Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

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


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

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

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



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


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

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

John Rainey EVA image 2 - 6 Feb

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


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

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

Ding Dong Merrily On High… inaugural poet in residence Pele Cox reflects on her time in Rome

Inaugural poet in residence Pele Cox, the John Murray / Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Creative Writing Resident, reflects on her two months spent in Rome at the BSR.


(Photo: Micheal Snelling)

I’m back now- looking out over the Clee Hill in Shropshire. ‘Was I ever in Rome!’ I think as I walk out past the sheep and drive up to Ludlow through the lanes littered with oaks and hedges. Two months is not a long time and it is green here, replete with grass and low barns- ‘how full of stone Rome is,’ I think. The counterpoint of  the UK to Rome in October, now living in its opposite as Christmas comes. I think, our relationship, our trajectory with the place is metronomic, relationship as rhythm and music – Stephen is right about footsteps. Every night I dream about the BSR and wake up and hear everybody like I’m still there, I think, the sheep can’t compete with that and this year the BSR will be my nativity.

Of course, like the canary going down the mine of return – and being the poet in the mix – I wonder whether it is a dreamlike state being at the BSR? How it is constellated internally after one gets back ‘Home’: how do the cube of green shutters, the gravel and statues lilting as one walks to the long wooden tables for sustenance stay real and coexist with the idea of return.  All the time Rome whispers, ‘I will not leave you,’ after all it is the ‘Eternal City.’  But can this travel? Can it sustain itself, find its realism and gravity after an easyJet journey back to what is even more familiar, more inscribed? Well what can I say to this apart from write out the last line of Lou’s performance –‘it’s always there even when you can’t see it.’  

While at the BSR I ran a series of weekly poetry workshops. One was on the subject of Dante and we really got our teeth into it. Every week I asked participants to bring a poem according to a theme and this week I asked everyone to bring a canto and image from Inferno. It was very interesting, not just because of the ekphrastic nature of the gesture, or because we were sitting there incanting ‘abandon all hope all ye who enter here’ and grappling with an epic with little time but because there were more salient parallels to the theme than I originally thought: Dante alludes to a dreamlike state, being half asleep in the lucid mechanisms -almost hypnagogic, he finds a soul to be guided by, a great thinker and poet who takes him into a terrain, a meta reality where things that are hidden or not realised are suddenly writ large – the first cartoon? Maybe. But to me more a place of symbolism, release and awakening. Each choice made was a guide to the individual, bringing the text into the room. As a reflection not just of themselves but their work, the direction of their study, the essence, in a way, of these trajectories. Perhaps Rome became our Virgil and becomes a place where we find a ‘language’ that can unpeel us and gives us juice, gravity – the privacy of our skin and brains inscribed against the stone, a message to ourselves. I realise now that is one of the reasons I wanted so much to be at the BSR. Poets live on the edges and sometimes they are given the chance to bring the edge in.

I was anxious to open up a room in this way, I have done this a lot in London but to do it in Rome with my adored and respected peer group of whom I was in awe, made me a little nervous! And I want to write about everyone but Paloma’s quiet dedication, John’s passionate sincerity and Kresho’s power of understanding, Dom’s kooky alert wit with his subject, Alice’s support – I cannot shake.  Most of all Josie- who writes very good poetry herself , and used poetry in her work for the Mostra -would stand at the window with a cigarette and read her work. It still weaves through my memory: Josie reading to us the poem by Pasolini about Gramsci’s grave…which is at the protestant cemetery where Keats is buried.. it came over us like a performance piece as the sounds of Rome moved through the open window of the BSR.

pele and al

(Photo: Micheal Snelling)

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BSR award-holders following Pele’s talk at the Keats-Shelley House (Photo: Micheal Snelling)

Of course this feeds into an idea of collaboration, which I am passionate about.  And to work with Lou True on a piece I had written before I came was a treat. I had tried to produce it in London but couldn’t find a space or an actress to perform it. It is testament to the BSR that it has these things available on a plate. Something from England woven through the heart and mind of the BSR, through the heart and mind of an actress whose luminosity and openness is testament to the idea of the potential of poetry and poetry in performance. Our piece was an inscription, a palimpsest set against all the living inscriptions and lectures that happen in that space, like all the words spoken there: the lecture theatre as vital space, it reminds the world that the BSR, like Rome, is hot, a living, organic thing.  A cultural conductor, an instructor.

Pele Cox Mistress poem performance by Lou True at BSR Theatre

Lou True performing ‘The Mistress Account’  (Photo: Micheal Snelling)

Pele Cox Mistress poem performance by Lou True at BSR Theatre

Lou True performing ‘The Mistress Account’  (Photo: Micheal Snelling)


Lou brought the canto of Beatrice to the poetry workshop – and after we had seen her perform we knew why. I thought what I had written had ‘life’- but Lou’s performance gave it that paradisal quality of truth-telling: as Keats says – ‘truth is beauty and beauty is truth’. I know the audience (and Keats) would agree – this idea was running through Lou’s veins when she set us alight that night and this to me is a metaphor for the power and potential of the gift of those spaces – between us, inside that square courtyard, the bell, the director, the people, the staff, the visitors – and the lecture theatre – I suppose you could say this was our lecture on the emotion of experience: drawn through my experience; the gift of that space, the audience and Lou. And ‘production’ is a simple thing if you have talent at your fingertips: the work was already there and we were given the resources thanks to Tom and Christine. We had quietly just rehearsed it each week and Lou learned the poems on the plane on her way to and from London. She would arrive back and we would go through and through it until it was right – poet and actress. The week before the performance we had paced the basilicas on Piers’ pilgrimage tour and we rehearsed the lines – as we walked along the cobbles, up the Basilica steps, outside with Lupin, past the confession boxes, past the Bernini statues staring up at the ceilings… Lou took these basilicas into her performance and those spaces were running through the poems as the lines came into her and out of her during the performance. I’m sure I could hear the churches’ echo in the spaces of the applause.

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Post performance of ‘The Mistress Account’  (Photo: Micheal Snelling)

The BSR is a fabulous space – and is a standard bearer for culture in the UK – an engine of thought, with a simple agenda, no corporate creative idea, or political agenda, all mantras allowed in. It is historic and contemporary, as a simple structure, a template, it can act as a leitmotif for being. So I must thank all of you so much for being so open to my project, for being such inspiring participants and friends in the spaces. Thank you to Christopher Smith’s vision, the Murrays, Giuseppe and Stephen for ‘getting it’ and letting me do the things I wanted to do, and also to Tom. Keats-Shelley House, of course was and always will be the setting off point for me – I wrote tweets during my residency there, in the spaces between, on my walk from the BSR through the Borghese Gardens to the KSH. Giuseppe is an inspiration, the lecture he came to see with me was about glass, I think how fragile this all is- how it is kept safe in the footsteps.

Text written by Pele Cox (John Murray / Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Creative Writing Resident). Click here to watch the talk Pele delivered at Keats-Shelley House.

December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists…John Robertson

This is the penultimate in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. As part of this series looking at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect, we interviewed John Robertson, our 2017-18 Abbey Scholar.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Your works intricately blend the language of painting and collage. Could you talk to us more about this?

Well I call them paintings, even though they’re all technically paper collages. I never paint directly onto the canvas, partly because it annoys me that if I put a bit of green say in the bottom right corner, I can’t move it to the top left. So I use the paper as a kind of mediator between the paint and the canvas. Then it becomes about the process of arranging and rearranging, a kind of visual syntax that’s trying to articulate the rectangle. Articulate rectangles, that’s what i’m trying to make, and I’d call that making paintings.

Farrier, 29.7 x 21 cm, acrylic on paper on canvas

Farrier, 2017, 29.7 x 21 cm, acrylic on paper on canvas (Photo: John Robertson)

You will be exhibiting in three Mostras at the BSR, do you think you will be able to see a change in your practice over the months from being resident in Rome?

I hope so. I think being in Rome, going around with an open mind, the city is beginning to seep into my work. One of the works I’m showing in the December Mostra is a large mostly black piece made with carbon paper. I arranged the paper the evening after I had visited San Luigi dei Francesi, the church with the Caravaggio triptych. When I was in there I realised that the only flat areas of colour in the church were the dark areas on these Caravaggio paintings — everything else was Baroque. But it was not as if I consciously came back and then did something about this, the carbon paper was in the studio and it was what I happened to pick up. It was only the following day that I made the relationship.

The interior of Santi Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso is almost entirely decorated with faux marble. It is a brown colour and you really don’t notice it at first. Some of it’s quite bad and I’m interested in that idea of bad faux because it’s really nebulous. With good faux you get this surprise when you get close and realise it’s paint but that’s about it. But bad faux is weirder, like a painting of good faux – a painting of.. a painting of… a surface. It’s more aware of itself as an image and that’s a quality i’m after in my work.

bad faux

Bad faux (Photo: John Robertson)

I often try to get that self-awareness from ripping up the paper, i’ll paint some faux woodgrain and rip it up and so you’ll get this bit of paper that’s pretending to be wood and admitting that it’s paper at the same time. It’s the torn edge that gives the game away.


Detail (Photo: John Robertson)


Could you tell us what ideas you have been exploring since you have been in Rome?

In my application for this residency, I stated that I was going to visit Palazzo Massimo as I knew that they had a lot of frescoes there. I was interested in the point where a trompe-l’oeil fresco gets eroded and the wall and plaster is exposed. This line, this sort of split, I think of as ontological in terms of what a painting is, a meeting of the image and the object and the discussion between these two things.

In Rome I have found a lot more of these frescoes, or displaced mosaics displayed on the wall. They all have this swathe of white interrupting them- the bare plaster. This has definitely been a thing that I’ve been looking at – the relationship between the painting and the wall. Previously I’ve used ripped up wallpaper to look at it but since i’ve been here I’ve been focusing more on using the negative space of the white gessoed canvas. I’m trying to throw the wall into the work. This can be seen in the black piece, which is named St. Bartholomew – after the statue at St John Lateran, which we saw on our walk around the seven pilgrimage basilicas of Rome.


Statue of Saint Bartholomew, St John Lateran (Photo: John Robertson)

In this statue he is holding his own image, his own skin. It’s a bit like the bad faux again, an image of an image. In my work that I have made for the Mostra, there’s this white expanse that can trick your eyes, it looks like there’s a hole in the middle of it. It’s like the white canvas is a faux painting of the wall. I like how this makes the white figurative, like it’s got a depth to it but only two and a half cm, the depth of the stretcher.

St. Bartholomew, 200 x 120 cm, Acrylic on paper on canvas

St. Bartholomew, 2017, 200 x 120 cm, Acrylic on paper on canvas (Photo: John Robertson)

I am still exploring these white spaces and will be looking at these and trying to figure this out over the next few months.

John’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)



December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists…Josephine Baker-Heaslip

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. As part of this series looking at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect, we interviewed Josephine Baker-Heaslip, our 2017-18 Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture.


Photo: Alice Marsh

In the past few weeks you have been working on an ambitious number of works on paper. Is this a new development in your practice, or do you see this more as a natural progression from your more sculptural work? Is there a relationship between the two?

I have always made drawings, but their intensity has changed. I used to draw very quickly, and being able to slow the drawings down here in Rome has reminded me of drawings I made when I was a teenager, not as an art student. I am enjoying returning to this meticulous way of working. But I think it is a natural development as well, insofar as when you start in a new place and you do not have abundant facilities and tools around you, which you become used to as a sculptor. For example, when I graduated from the RA Schools in June I rented a temporary studio with no facilities at all, I had to change my methods and I started to draw on paper again, using chalk to create colour fields and patterns resembling landscapes. I find starting from scratch in this way helps me to see what is around me again.

I see drawing as the mediation between different moments or stages of a sculptural or more spatial practice, and for me it is often the place where ideas for new sculptures first arrive. I guess partly because of this the sculptures often feel quite flat, reduced and diagrammatic. I have often been told that they look like physical drawings in space. As I come from more of a printmaking background, working within the parameters of a surface comes relatively naturally. This limitation is also something that interests me about architectural space the building materials that I use.

I am currently taking things that I have learned from sculpture and reapplying them back into my drawings, to try to in turn figure out what can be made physical again. So, yes, it is a progression in my practice, by me learning how to look both into the past and future of my work. Making these intense landscape drawings now is going to inform the sculptures that I make here in the next months.


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, night is also a sun, 2016


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, new grass, 2017

What things in Rome have particularly struck you and influenced you during this period?

I’m not really able to talk about it until I can see the influences starting to operate in my work. For example, I can see it here in these drawings of organs.


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, last breath, 2017

It has been critical that in every church I have been into in Rome there has been this incredible strange musical edifice of the organ. Being confronted by an overtly Catholic culture here, as an atheist, has drawn out my interest in my own relationship to these places. The organ is so huge and so silent when it is not being played, even though it is practically the loudest instrument in the world. There is something about a need to believe and a will to sense, and how they are visible or invisible to one another, that is particularly powerful, which I want to try to visualize.

Also, in Rome the kerbs of the pavements have these interlocking sections. When my auntie visited me in Rome she said that my gran was always struck by these kerb patterns. Even though it is a very pragmatic form, it suddenly felt to me very personal and the shape became imbued with another kind of history. These interlocking semicircles now recur as a motif in a lot of my drawings.

I try to approach things very naively at times. Like seeing some huge holes through the façade of a Roman structure, and not knowing what they were for, guessing that they were to do with water, so my drawings of this form often have charcoal smudged into water flowing out of them. I like to play with the processes of the imagination and how they can predict reality, or structures of knowledge, in an attempt to figure out how I am affected by the landscapes around me.

Being here for twelve months I am able to take things quite slow and let the city take me by surprise. You never know what you are going to encounter and how it might change your practice. Rome is saturated with these moments, and at every turn there are moments that your gut has to pick out.

You are in Rome for 12 months, are there any specific places that you would like to visit?

I have been able to go to Venice for the Biennale and Turin for Artissima while I have been here, so far. However, in both places it has not been the art fairs or festivals necessarily, but other things that have struck me on my visits.

While in Italy, I am particularly interested in visiting the earthquake sites and in doing so start to understand a country that is much more affected by natural disasters (earthquakes and volcanoes) than the UK. I have used images of natural disasters in my work as a frightfully real metaphor for a lot of contemporary conditions. Thinking about the environment in the 21st Century and the distinction between natural and man-made catastrophe has been a constant theme in my practice for the past two years.

I would like to go and see Giampilieri Superiore (Messina) in Sicily, a small town that was completely decimated in 2009. And also visit the volcanic island of Stromboli. I don’t know exactly what will come out of these visits, but I know the motivation has much to do with observing a human relationship to nature in crisis, and how these extreme situations and their imagining relate to the complexity of the current migrant crisis.

How has being resident at the BSR affected your practice?

I am making a wall sculpture of a large backgammon board, based on a travel one that I have here in the studio that I brought with me, with the hope that I’d find someone to play with! This form has come into my work as both an architectural and natural one, and for me represents a certain kind of structure of loneliness. This is not immediately obvious from the work, of course, but for me it was the motivation to use this motif, as well as it being a popular ancient game in Mediterranean countries. The board, dice and pieces will also play with the ideas of cause, effect and chance — which are recurring themes in my work. So being at the BSR has affected me, but I think it is more about being self-aware and figuring out what you are affected by and using it in the work.

Will you show both sculpture and drawings in the mostra?

In the mostra I would like to use the space to experiment with the relationships between my sculptures and drawings. I didn’t end up doing this for the show at the RA Schools and I would really like to push this spatial relationship between really concentrated works on paper and scattered sculpture. I am looking forward to creating a series of connections in the room and from there think about where I would like to go next.

Josephine’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

Benvenuti to our 2017-18 award-holders

2017-18 October award-holders

2017-18 October award-holders. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Our October award-holders for 2017-18 arrived just last week, and it was great for staff and residents to hear about their projects for their residencies during our welcome week introductory talks. A full list of this year’s award-holders is on our website.

In our October cohort we are pleased to have been able to offer three new residencies.  Loek Luiten is our Judith Maitland Memorial Awardee whose research looks at the Farnese dynasty and power in Saint Peter’s patrimony; on the Fine Arts side we have James Epps who is our Augusta Scholar; and last but not least Pele Cox, our John Murray / Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Creative Writing Resident.

Pele is the BSR’s first resident in creative writing and as part of her introductory talk we were treated to a reading of a poem she had written in response to being awarded her residency at the BSR. Earlier this week she introduced many residents to the Keats Shelley Memorial House — not far from the BSR in Piazza di Spagna — where Julian Sands was giving a poetry reading.

A trip to the Roman Forum has been a staple of welcome week activities in the past few years, and this year the mantle passed from former BSR Director Christopher Smith to BSR Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens. Taking in some sites on the way, the group profited from Assistant Director Tom True’s worldly wisdom in the Campo Marzio.

For those of you in Rome, keep your diaries free on 29 and 30 November when our current senior award-holders Clare Robertson and Philippa Jackson will be giving their lectures on ‘Federico Zuccaro and his intellectual circle’ and ‘Raphael and Sienese circles’ respectively.

And on Friday 15 December we have the opening of December Mostra, an exhibition of works by current Fine Arts award-holders.

There’s a lot to look forward to, and the full list of events we will be holding here in Rome is on our website: http://www.bsr.ac.uk/news/italy-events.

Photos by Antonio Palmieri (2017-18 award-holders) and Alice Marsh (Forum and Campo Marzio)