June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

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

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Photo: Antonio Palmeiri

You recently participated in EVA International. Tell us more about this experience…

EVA is an international biennial that takes place in Limerick, in the west of Ireland. For this year’s EVA I was commissioned to create a new piece of outdoor sculpture – an architectural intervention onto the facade of a Georgian building called the Hunt Museum.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

The commission demanded much of my attention in the first 3 months of my BSR fellowship and was finally delivered in mid-April. There were a lot of new approaches for me with this project, including working on a much larger scale, and working with a steel fabricator in Ireland, while I was based here in Rome. This kind of remote management of the project was a challenge, but ultimately good experience.

At the end of March I returned to Ireland to do the final stage of the fabrication, and was based in a studio at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, where I had a short production residency. The finished work was a staging of a section of the building’s façade falling into ruin, so the development and production periods coinciding with my fellowship in Rome felt especially relevant. My time spent at ruined sites around the city, particularly thinking about fragmentation, destruction and conservation practices are still influencing my planning of new work.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to ruin (you)’, 2018. EVA International installation.

Will the work you show in the June Mostra be connected to the work you presented in Ireland?

Not directly, though it will share some of the thinking about control, destruction and imitation with the ruins project. This time I’m picking up on a dialogue with classical statuary form.

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“Variants (Addendum)” (detail), 2017. Image: Simon Mills courtesy of Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

In visiting collections in the Museums of Rome, my existing interest in the copy has narrowed in on ideas about repetition, states of repair and provenance. Specifically copies of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, one of which I saw recently at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I will be presenting a series of variations of this form on a reduced scale, developed through 3D printing and traditional casting processes.

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Doryphoros at National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

I am working with new materials in Rome, such as silicone, jesmonite and printied vinyl (as with the interior ruins piece I showed in the March Mostra), so the work in the upcoming June Mostra will feature a combination of these.

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John Rainey, ‘Going to Roman ruin (you)’, 2018. BSR March Mostra. (Photo: Roberto Apa)

 

You recently visited the excavations at Pompeii, as you were particularly interested in the plaster cast bodies. Explain how this trip affected you?

The Pompeii casts are especially interesting for me because casting in one of the main processes I use in my work. I create moulds to cast into, but at times I’m also casting from life.

More aligned with the tradition of death casting, the cavities created by the bodies in Pompeii acted as ready made moulds after the decomposition of soft tissue. The results of this natural casting process (following the intervention of Giuseppe Fiorelli who filled the spaces with plaster) are artefacts that resist classification – part artwork and part corpse.

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Pompeii plaster casts

Similarly, seeing the artefacts first-hand is not a singular experience – they’re beautiful and horrifying at the same time. This dual experience is something familiar to a lot of the corporeal work that I make.

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Pompeii plaster casts

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John Rainey, “Face Off”, 2016

There’s another significant resonance between the Pompeii bodies and my practice in terms of the use of digital scanning processes. In recent years the bodies have been subject to CT scanning which has revealed the skeletal remains and other matter that lies inside the solid forms.

Pompeii Cat scan on casts of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius

Pompeii plaster cast, 3D scan and CT scan. (Picture by: NApress)

This information has really expanded our knowledge of the society they represent, while also correcting long-held assumptions about the victims, such as the causes of death, gender, and social status. This example of material and digital technologies rendering the human past with greater lucidity, when applied to this historical, real-world investigation, has been useful for thinking about the wider context of the processes I use.

John’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

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

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June Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Murat Urlali

As we approach the March Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists. Our first interview is with Murat Urlali, our National Art School, Sydney, Resident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murat’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 June 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 June 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Murat Urlali (excepting church of San Clemente, copyright free image). 

BSR Library Special Collections. Gift from Mark Getty, BSR Chair of Council.

Professor David McKitterick introduces a selection of the latest addition to the BSR Library’s Special Collections.

Quite apart from its modern collections, the BSR owns a remarkable collection of early printed books, many of them from the library of Thomas Ashby, to which other benefactors have given since. But the BSR has not been able to add to these for a long time. When in February the collection of books about Rome assembled by Sergio Rossetti came onto the market in Milan, there was an unprecedented opportunity to enrich the library.

Rossetti’s four-volume bibliography of Rome was published in 2000-4, and he built up his own remarkable collection alongside. Thanks to the imagination and prompt generosity of Mark Getty, the BSR was able to acquire over a hundred volumes at the auction, dating from the early sixteenth century to the late nineteenth.

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Mark Getty with Director Stephen Milner and Librarian Valerie Scott

Some were magnificent illustrated books, such as Pietro Castelli’s volume of engravings of rare plants in the Farnese gardens (1625), or Pietro Ferrerio and Giovani Battista Falda’s engravings of palazzi (c.1660) many of which have now disappeared, while the great etchings in the folio Rovine del castello dell’Acqua Giulia (1761) show Piranesi’s interests as simultaneously antiquary, architect and hydraulic engineer.

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Engraving from Pietro Ferrerio, Palazzi di Roma di più celebri architetti, Roma [1655-70]

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Engraving from Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Le rovine del castello dell’Acqua Giulia situato in Roma presso S. Eusebio…..…, Rome 1761

The copy of Giacomo Lauro’s collection of views Antiquae urbis splendor (1637) is in an impressive gilt binding with the arms of Pope Urban VIII. A group of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century books about the Tiber focusses , not surprisingly, on the periodic floods. An illustrated volume by Nicolai Alemanni on the Lateran palace (1637) focusses on Pope Leo III’s grand new ninth-century dining room, or triclinium, decorated with mosaics and only some of which survives.

At the core of this wonderful accession is a large group of guidebooks, in Latin, Italian, French and English, to be added to the already notable collection of these already on the shelves in the BSR. While such books are obviously reflections of local identity and are invaluable for anyone trying to unravel the history of ownership of works of art, they are also some of the closest ways we can come to seeing the world through the eyes of earlier centuries.

Just to read the ever more detailed guides, meeting the needs of seventeenth-century tourists such as John Evelyn or John Milton, or a host of eighteenth-century visitors, is not only to begin to see with their eyes, but also to wonder at the energies of people who (if they followed some guidebooks’ instructions) were expected to see Rome sometimes in as little as three days: the Vatican and Trastevere could easily be dealt with in just one. But these guidebooks tell us more.

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Frontispiece from Pompilio Totti, Ritratto di Roma antica……….., Roma 1645

Pompilio Totti, the much-printed author of the best of the seventeenth-century guides, showed how Rome could be divided into antica and moderna.  By the time we come to read his even more popular successor, the archaeologist Antonio Nibby (first published shortly after the Napoleonic wars and widely available in Italian and French) there are new concerns, arising from the ever-more revealing excavations. How should ruins be preserved, and how should they be shown off? These remain no less topical questions today.

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Frontispiece from Pompilio Totti, Ritratto di Roma moderna……….., Roma 1645

Of the later books, one further might be selected among these prizes. Matthew Dubourg’s  Views of the remains of ancient buildings in Rome and its vicinity  (London, 1820) has become rare because so many copies have been broken up for the sake of the lovely hand-coloured illustrations. But the text is worth reading as well, influenced by the fashion for gothic novels and written by a person informed by the dramatic paintings of Salvator Rosa. This is the Rome of the romantics, published just a few months before Keats died. Not surprisingly, Byron is quoted on the Colosseum: ‘a noble wreck, in ruinous perfection’. All these books invite further study, and all are being added to the union catalogue URBiS (www.urbis-libnet.org).

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From Matthew Dubourg, Views of the remains of ancient buildings in Rome and its vicinity…………, London 1820

Meanwhile, a selection is currently on display at the Entrance Hall of the BSR.

Text by David McKitterick, Emeritus Honorary Professor of Historical Bibliography, Trinity College, Cambridge.

 

David visited the BSR and gave a fascinating talk to staff, residents and award-holders about the new arrivals.

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The research potential of our Special Collections has been enhanced by this remarkable gift and our aim now is to seek funding for specific BSR Library awards to generate more opportunities for research projects based on our rich collections.

Text by Valerie Scott, Librarian

Photos by Antonio Palmieri

Ashby Adventures 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll on next year…!

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

 

A look back at the March Mostra 2018

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

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

 

Marie-Claire Blais (Québec Resident)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Gabriel Hartley (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

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Joseph Redpath (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Deborah Rundle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Joseph Redpath

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

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…John Rainey

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

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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