Wrapping up 2016-17: our year in events

As the final event of our 2016—17 events programme, AHMM’s Architecture and the Art of the Extra Ordinary exhibition, is about to close, it is with great pride that we look back on a fantastic year. Our calendar this year has been one of the richest yet, with some 90 lectures, conferences, exhibitions and seminars. To showcase the wide range of events we have hosted and the diversity of the disciplines cultivated, here is a taste of the fantastic cultural programme we are proud to have hosted over the past ten months.

From 19—21 September, the BSR hosted the conference The Lateran Basilica, which saw specialists in archaeology, architecture, art history, liturgy and topography come together to present and discuss new research on the Basilica. The conference included not only a rich programme of lectures, but also a site visit to the excavations of the ancient foundations of the Basilica.

In October, the exhibition Emplacement by Miroslaw Balka, which was the first of our 2016—17 Architecture programme Meeting Architecture: Fragments curated by Marina Engel, drew to a close with the artist in conversation with Joseph Rykwert. Focusing on Otwock, near Warsaw, Balka’s home town and Rykwert’s childhood holiday home, the artist and architectural historian discussed their respective work in the context of architecture and memory and architecture and ideology.

You can watch the video of the conversation here.


Joseph Rykwert (L) in conversation with Miroslaw Balka (R), chaired by Pippo Ciorra (C). Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

The first event of our Fine Arts programme, curated by Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator Marco Palmieri, was a talk by British artist Emma Hart, who last year won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Emma discussed her practice and elaborated on recent works, motivations, and projects.


Artist’s talk by Emma Hart. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Also taking place in November was our annual Molly Cotton Lecture, which this year was given by Maria Paola Guidobaldi. Her lecture Arredi di Lussi da Ercolano: I più recenti rinvenimenti dalla città e dalla Villa dei Papiri gave an insight into new findings at Herculaneum. Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the lecture.

You can read about Molly Cotton and her legacy in this piece written by Archaeology Officer and Molly Cotton Fellow, Stephen Kay.

The first three months of our 2016—17 programme culminated in the December Mostra, which gave us the first glimpse of the new works by our Fine Arts award-holders. As always, the Mostra was a great success and we were blown away by the quality and diversity of the works on show.

From 26—27 January, the BSR hosted the conference for Rome’s Mediterranean Ports Project for the second year in a row, a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council and led by the University of Southampton. This conference was another international event which brought together new research from a broad range of scholars.

You can read more about the project here.


While the BSR recently celebrated its 100th birthday, a talk by John Osborne marked the 150th birthday of a significant advancement in photography. In this lecture, Charles Smeaton, John Henry Parker and the earliest photography in the Roman catacombs, John Osborne discussed the innovation of using magnesium wire to take photographs, which allowed images to be captured without natural light. The impact of this was that Roman catacombs could be documented with photographs for the first time. This is a topic close to the BSR, as the collection of photographs by Thomas Ashby (Director 1906–25) is a treasure of the BSR Archive. We are also very much looking forward to welcoming John as one of 2017–18 Balsdon Fellows!

For Assistant Director Tom True’s reflection on the talk, follow this link. You can watch the lecture on our YouTube channel by clicking here.


We thank Robert Coates-Stephens for captaining another fantastic City of Rome course, in which eleven postgraduate students spent eight weeks in Rome on an intensive residential course, with a rigorous itinerary of site visits and research. The course is accompanied by the City of Rome lecture series, and in this we were treated to seven fantastic lectures on the ancient city.

In June, no less than four conferences were held at the BSR. The first, Oltre Roma medio repubblicana: il Lazio tra i galli e la battaglia di Zamaformed the second part of the conference series which seeks to address anew the themes of growth and transformation of the city of Rome and its territory.

Scholars convened at the BSR for the the Rome Art History Network (RAHN) conference Le collezioni degli artisti in Italia, which considered the impact of social change between the 1500s and 1700s on art and artists in that period.

Hot on the heels of this, the first day of the two-day conference Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium came to the BSR. Many were drawn out into the cortile by the smell of incense wafting through the corridors.


Sensing Divinity conference. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.


Sensing Divinity conference. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

The fourth and final conference in June was rounded off with Hortus inclusus: Expanding Boundaries of Time and Space, which marked twenty years since the landmark Horti Romani conference which opened new directions for the study of cultural landscapes.

The final event of the 2016–17 programme was a lecture and accompanying exhibition by Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects. Architecture and the Art of the Extra Ordinary explores the idea of the Universal Building, demonstrated in six projects in a range of physical, political and cultural contexts. For the video of Simon Allford’s lecture, please click here.

We are already looking forward to a fresh set of events beginning in September! New programme coming soon…

Ellie Johnson (Communications and Events)



A look back at the June Mostra 2017

In June the BSR saw the third and final Mostra of our 2016–17 programme. Our seven Fine Arts award-holders put together a brilliant exhibition of works produced during the course of their residencies. Here we bring you a selection of Roberto Apa’s fantastic photographs of the Mostra works. You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to the support of The Bridget Riley Foundation, the Helpmann Academy, The Incorporated Edwin Austin Abbey Memorial Scholarships, The Linbury Trust, The National Art School, Sydney, and the William Fletcher Foundation.


Chris Browne (William Fletcher Foundation Scholar)

Clockwise from top left: Carrara, oil on canvas, 45 x 85 cm; Portrait Study, oil on canvas, 32 x 30 cm; Sub, oil on canvas, 26 x 54 cm.


Gary Deirmendjian (National Art School, Sydney, Resident)


Clockwise from top-left: gripping, lead, 20 x 26 x 16 cm; skull & bones, lead, 30 x 29.5 cm;  classica, lead, 30 x 29 cm; tendency – BSR theatre wall, thread and tape, 975 x 300 cm.


Peter McDonald (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

Clockwise from top: Kiss, A4, acrylic and gouache on paper; Volpetti, A4,
acrylic and gouache on paper; Dinner, BSR, A4, acrylic and gouache on paper.


Catherine Parsonage (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

Clockwise from top-left: Carry me from Garbo’s, Indian ink, pastel, oil pastel on
fabriano paper in perspex frame, 66 x 111 cm; Campari Spring, coloured pencil, pastel, watercolour on fabriano paper in perspex frame, 66 x 111 cm; sticky as an ant, and
shining like a hothouse flower, acrylic on canvas, 85 x 120 cm.


Kate Power (Helpmann Academy Resident)

Insidious distance, timber, cardboard, bubble wrap, papier mache, gesso, paint, fabric,
dimensions variable.


Catherine Parsonage and Kate Power


a condition for doing things together, single channel video, 20 mins 11 secs.


Sinta Tantra (The Bridget Riley Fellow)


Tuca Tuca – Spring Time in Rome, tempera on linen, 130 x 180 cm.


Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting)


Bonbon circuit, mixed media on canvas, 122 x 102 cm.

All photos by Roberto Apa

Fresco frenzy at the BSR

BSR scholars and artists were recently invited to take part in a fresco painting workshop organised by Anna de Riso and Eliana Billi. Assimilating the techniques and materials of ancient and Renaissance painters, the workshop presented the opportunity to recreate a fresco to a high degree of authenticity. The workshop complemented the interest in fresco painting of many of the group, with several having already visited Naples where they had seen the fantastic frescoes excavated at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The day began with an introduction to the history of fresco painting from its ancient Greek origins, when it was used to decorate prestigious buildings and the homes of the wealthy. The earliest Greek examples are now lost, with most of the knowledge on this craft coming from literary sources.

For wall-painting in the Roman era, one of two techniques – fresco or secco – would have been employed. Both had as their base pozzolana (volcanic ash) which was mixed with water to make it set, and they differed in how the paint was applied. With the fresco technique, pigment was ground with water to make the paint and then applied on top of wet, fresh lime mortar or plaster, then left to carbonate and set. With the secco technique, the plaster was still dry when the paint was applied, necessitating the binding of the pigment with egg or glue to make it stick. Clay-based pigments were often used in fresco-painting in the Roman era and this type of pigment could be polished, giving the fresco a shiny finish.

Both techniques had their drawbacks: the pigment on secco frescoes was more susceptible to flaking off over time, however the fresco paintings had to be completed quickly, before the plaster set, and accurately, as mistakes could not be corrected once painted.

Fresco painting continued into the Middle Ages, however the images depicted were simpler and less refined. A turning-point was reached at the end of the 14th century with the pioneers Cavallini and Giotto, who headed a new-found interest in the depiction of space and volume. With new styles came new techniques, the most important of which were: fewer layers used to build up the panel; the use of sinopia, a reddish-brown pigment used to create a preparatory drawing on the panel before the paint was applied; and the combination of the fresco element of painting on wet plaster with that of the secco technique, in which further details were added once the panel had been painted and set.


‘The Last Judgement’ fresco by Cavallini in S. Cecilia in Trastevere


‘The Dream of Joachim’ fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

With the outline of the tradition and the technical aspects explained, it was time to put the new-found knowledge into practice. The group was split into two, with half recreating Pompeian frescoes and half following the Renaissance technique, and both groups following designs from that period.

The Pompeian group began by mixing together the mortar formula and spreading it on their panels. They then sketched their designs onto the surface with pigment, then traced along the sketch with a knife to make a small engraving of the design. Plaster was then applied over the engraved base layer, through which the design showed through and was then reapplied on the plaster layer. With the design in place, the painting could begin.


Mixing the mortar. Photo by Stephen Kay.

Fresco workshop

Applying the mortar layer. Photo by Ellie Johnson.


Outlining the design in paint. Photo by Stephen Kay.


Adding details to the plaster layer. Photo by Antonio Palmieri

The plaster layer was applied to just half of the panel, to show the different stages of the process.


James Norrie (Rome Fellow), Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting) and Peter McDonald (Abbey Fellow in Painting) with their Pompeian frescoes

Those following the Renaissance technique began by drawing their designs on tracing paper, then puncturing small holes along the outline of the drawing. They then applied the cement layer to the panel, softening the mixture with water and working it with a spatula until it was smooth. The tracing paper was placed over the top, and then the sinopia pigment was applied, permeating the punctures to give the outline of the design.

With the general outline in place, the sinopia pigment was mixed with water to create a paint which was used to complete the outline, and then the designs were completed with coloured paint.


Helpmann Academy Resident Kate Power – painting in progress. Photo by Stephen Kay.


The Bridget Riley Fellow Sinta Tantra – painting in progress. Photo by Stephen Kay.


William Fletcher Foundation Scholar Chris Browne – painting in progress. Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Many thanks to Anna de Riso and Eliana Billi for organising a fantastic workshop.

Ellie Johnson (Communications & Events)

June Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Catherine Parsonage

There are still three days left to see the fantastic show put together by our resident artists for the June Mostra! In the final instalment of the Meet the artists blog series, we spoke to Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture, Catherine Parsonage, about her residency and how her practice has changed over the course of the past nine months.


Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Catherine Parsonage uses painting and sculpture to pursue the ultimate reduction of the female form, condensing the body to its most elementary essence through single deft lines. The drawings and paintings carefully choreograph the body as the fashion photographer might its subject, creating a distilled mis-en-scene, where the subtle shifts in weight and angle are imbued with movement and poise.

With this being your third Mostra, you have by now worked alongside three different groups of artists with very different practices. Have you noticed your work changing in response to this? If so, how?

Every three months when the new artists arrive an entirely new energy is exchanged at the BSR. I think that watching and understanding how different artists approach their work but perhaps more importantly their time at the BSR has been really valuable. I think I am still absorbing a lot from my first three months here where the conversations and relationships I had shifted everything about my approach to painting; similarly recent conversations have encouraged me to work through my ideas in other mediums.

In the past few months, you have been collaborating with artists both inside and outside the BSR. How did these projects came about, and are these collaborations are a new practice for you?

Yes, they are a new practice for me, the collaborations and conversations I have been part of during the last few months have been so nourishing for my approach to thinking and making. The exhibition FULL FOR IT with Tomaso de Luca and the process of making the video a condition for doing things together with Kate Power have resulted in work I am not only excited by but which I know will have a huge impact in the future.


Still of video installation ‘a condition for doing things together’ by Catherine Parsonage and Kate Power.

Artist Celine Condorelli cites in her work on the politics of friendship this beautiful quote by Bertrand, which comes to mind when I think about these relationships and collaborations:

The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.

In your last interview, you mentioned that you have been working with stained glass. How did you go on with that in the last three months?

Some of the smaller pieces have in fact just arrived in the studio, and I think they will be exhibited in Italy in late Autumn. The development and production of the stained glass pieces has been a long process: the initial ideas and drawings have had to be constantly adapted through conversation and tests with Paolo Corpetti, the artisan I have been working with. There has been a reciprocal push and pull to find a balance between the vision for the work and the potential and limitations of the materials themselves; I think this is one of the most significant elements of these exchanges – for example even seeing the pieces in my studio this week has shifted how I will install and treat them and this forced fluidity is a welcome challenge.

Do you feel an affinity with these new mediums – performance,  glass, printmaking– and do you think you will explore them further after your residency?

Definitely, I think I am still processing my thoughts about the video a condition for doing things together with Kate Power: the piece involves a single shot of Kate and I at dawn wearing these stilt-like pointed shoes which we made from pieces of wood left around the workshop; the experience of performing in these shoes – of falling, struggling, supporting one another was an incredibly intense, rich and new one for me. Kate and I will continue to work together and in this performative manner in the future.

With all the other 2016-17 residencies ending at the end of June, the next three months at the BSR will no doubt have a very different atmosphere to work in. Can you anticipate how this might affect your work? Do you know yet how you intend to use that time, which will be more open-ended than the October—June period?

The residency thus far has been an intense time of change for my work, I hope that the upcoming months will provide a quieter moment to digest and reflect on these shifts and to process the immense visual fullness one experiences in Rome.  I will be spending these months working towards solo shows in London and Italy later in the year.

Catherine’s work is currently being exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Friday 16 June until Saturday 24 June 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson (Communications & Events)

June Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Kate Power

Last Thursday saw the opening of this year’s June Mostra, and it was a great pleasure to see the work of our resident artists brought together for a fantastic exhibition. Here we give you an insight into the practice of Helpmann Academy Resident Kate Power, who discusses here the process behind her Mostra pieces.


Kate Power. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Kate Power embraces video, performance, textiles, sculpture and installation to investigate enforced social constructs that can complicate the way people relate to one another. Power observes social interactions to consider how seemingly insignificant moments have psychological and physiological impacts. These ideas form a framework to consider humour, loneliness, uncertainty and suppressed desire. Through a lens of queer and feminist theories, Power considers modes of generating knowledge through observing everyday experiences and making processes.

What will you be showing in the Mostra?

I’m showing a work of three sculptures. The forms are made from things I’ve accumulated here, like packaging I don’t need anymore and things I’ve found in the workshop, and covered with layers of gesso and paint. The process of making the forms has been ongoing over my residency and I think reflects things I’ve noticed about Rome. I’ve been interested in movement and gesture in sculpture and the way the architecture is layered, changing form and adding new parts onto old structures. Making these works has been a process of adding and taking over time. It’s a development of my usual process that has been inspired by being here and observing the layers and textures of the city.


Part of your practice involves ‘observing everyday experiences’ – how does being at the BSR, and in Rome more generally, feed into that?

These works seem to embody a feeling or reaction and I think they are responses to lots of things I’ve been seeing and experiencing here but also the intimate social environment of the BSR. It’s been interesting living in such close living quarters with other artists and scholars. I think being in a country where I don’t speak the language and you feel like a foreigner increases my awareness of the kind of otherness I think about in relation to feeling alienated or distanced from other people. That space and the ways people intercept it are what interests me and I think being here has made me more sensitive to this, so I’ve drawn on it in new ways.

How has working alongside this group of artists and scholars impacted your work?

I’ve connected with another artist here, Catherine Parsonage, and we’ve made a collaborative work together. Our ideas cross over and we’d been having lots of conversations that led to kind of embodying the conversations we were having, or perhaps embodying the process of communication. Spending time with the scholars has made me see things from other perspectives too and knowing about their projects has certainly informed the way I approach looking at history. Thinking about layers and the way things develop on top of one another actually started from walking around with a scholar here who was talking about the way new structures were added on to existing buildings and so a lot of the architecture is an amalgamation over time. I liked this idea for thinking about human interactions and the moments that build up in people to shape the way they see things or even the way they hold their body.


Still of video installation by Kate Power and Catherine Parsonage.

Which spaces in Rome – either public spaces, museums, or galleries – have been of particular interest to you?

Since I arrived I’ve been drawn to the empty apses on the outsides of buildings. Something about these spaces that seem designed for something that isn’t there has stayed on my mind. Something about absence but with an implied object or thing is compelling to me. My work centres on non-specific connections that impact on people in subtle ways and I think something about these elusive spaces has provoked my thinking about things in between, a kind of engagement and non-engagement. Also I have the desire to put my sculptures in them. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at sculpture. Not in a particular gallery but I’ve been drawn to certain gestures like hands holding objects and reaching behind, covering bodies.


Have you been experimenting with new techniques or new mediums since being at the BSR?

The technique or wrapping things together to make forms isn’t new to me but layering plaster and paint the way I have on these sculptures is new. I wanted to expose layers underneath while still applying more layers and also give a kind of humourous reference to marble. When I came here I wanted to do marble carving but given the time restraints I wasn’t able to do a course. I took some close up photos of marble and I think the new process I’ve developed might look as if it’s trying to pose as marble.

Looking ahead, do you have any projects lined up for when you return to Australia?

I expect I’ll be working with my experiences in Rome for a while. I’ve done a lot of drawing and planning for new works while I’ve been here and I anticipate I’ll turn that into a body of work when I go home. I would like to expand these sculptures into a larger installation and I also have some plans for wall hangings, curtains and videos.

Kate’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Friday 16 June until Saturday 24 June 2017, closed Sundays.

All photos by Kate Power.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson (Communications & Events)

June Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Peter McDonald

The final Mostra of works by our 2016–17 artists-in-residence will open at the BSR this evening. For a taste of what to expect from the exhibition, we bring you our latest interview, this time with Abbey Fellow in Painting, Peter McDonald. Here Peter discusses the works he will be showing in the June Mostra, the process behind them, and how being in Italy has shaped his practice during the past three months.

Peter McDonald

Peter McDonald. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Peter McDonald’s paintings depict a colourful world inhabited by people engaged in everyday activities. Images of teachers, hairdressers, chefs, shopkeepers or scholars are constructed with an elementary graphic language. They have a cartoon like simplicity and waver at the point where figuration might tip at any moment into abstraction. Human forms veer towards the geometric; circles stand in for heads, flat planes describe rooms and crude poses denote narrative. Yet these simplifications appear to create a community of superhumans living in a world that has a harmonious transparency.

What will you be showing in the mostra and can you explain the process behind the works and how they came about?

I’ll be showing about 25 works on paper, A4 size, painted with this acrylic gouache paint, which is water-based, which I buy in Japan – but then I found some interesting colours in an art shop in Rome too – and then six of these cigarette box works.

You have to lift up the lid then flick the front part down. I’ve been making these boxes for years – I showed them in an exhibition in Japan [at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa] and even then I’d been making these for a while. They ended up going to bookshops, bakers, hairdressers, record shops, places like that. So it’s something that I do when I travel. Altogether I’ve probably made between 45 and 50 of them.

Do you ever match up what you paint inside of the box with the images on the outside?

Yes, sometimes – for example, one cigarette box had a photo of smoke being blown onto a baby’s face on the outside, and inside I painted a couple kissing, in a very romantic and idealised scene in contrast to the outer image.


Painted cigarette box by Peter McDonald. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

With this one, I collected some bits of broken glass from the street outside, and turned it into a contemporary art piece in the scene inside this box, and then a shaving from a pencil-sharpener became a sculpture.


Gallery scene inside a cigarette box. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

There will be six of these boxes in the mostra, and they’re going to be on little shelves placed throughout the exhibition.

The images come about from my daily life, so I walk around with this pocket-sized sketchbook, and inside I quickly sketch ideas, and that’s the starting point for my paintings. Some of them don’t make it out of the sketchbook. They’re just little moments that I see in my daily life and that I think might translate well into my painted world. I often find that the process of painting reveals more information about the subject, and gives it more sense or makes it more interesting, and I just follow it through.


Scenes of daily life in Rome by Peter McDonald in the BSR exhibition space. photo by Ellie Johnson.

With your paintings looking at ‘people engaged in everyday activities’ – how has the context of the BSR, and Rome more generally, fed into this?

Being in Rome and at the BSR has fed into my work, but quite subtly. It isn’t reflected so much on the surface in terms of the imagery, but it has had an effect more internally, and that will probably start seeping through later. Being in Rome has allowed me to visit sites and cities which have given me a sense of the historical and artistic lineage: going from Pompeii to Palazzo Massimo and seeing the frescoes, then on to Venice, Florence and Siena, and after that Arezzo and Assisi and Perugia. I really felt the lineage of history and how imagery and techniques were developing, especially in the depiction of space, which I have always been interested in, and which was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Rome in the first place. So it’s been more than I expected, really. Also, using the Library at the BSR for books which talk about the development of space in paintings, from Roman times to the Renaissance, has been a really good thing to be doing in the evenings – I can read up about it, and then process it when I’m working the next day.

As your residency is relatively short at just three months long, how have you divided your time between being inside the studio and being outside of the BSR, engaging with the city and with Italy?

It’s been a challenge but in a good way. From the beginning I knew that I should try and think about how to divide the time, and at first I was actually thinking, if I can’t make any work then I will give priority to being in Rome seeing places and visiting places, and then if I can make some work, I will at least make some sketches or some notes. As it happens, I have managed to do enough: I’m happy with the work that I’ve made, and also I’ve managed to visit so many places. There are still two or three places I’d like to visit before I go – Cortona, Tarquinia and Ostia, if I can.

Since being in Rome, have you come across any new styles or mediums or techniques that you’d like to pursue after your residency?

In terms of materials, just these acrylic paints which I found in Rome. The fresco workshop was something I’ve always wanted to know more about, but I don’t know If that’s something I would go back to in my practice. However, it will help me understand frescoes a bit more when I see them now, and understand how difficult the process is.

Have you found that working alongside artists who have very diverse practices to your own impacts upon your work?

This studio is great, because it’s your own space and it’s very quiet, which allows me to just get into my own work. But it has been good to be alongside artists every day, and to see what they’re doing and the variety of different practices has been really interesting. Especially in comparison to London, where the other artists you interact with tend to be doing similar things in terms of art, so it has been really refreshing to see different practices.

Has the interdisciplinary nature of the BSR, working alongside scholars as well as other artists, influenced your work? 

With the scholars, it’s been good to hear their lectures and hear how they think about things, because that’s definitely something that I don’t have much access to in London – people doing PhDs, researching classics or history… there’s no way that I would normally meet people like that when I’m based in my studio in London. I’ve found that to be really interesting, and perhaps it will come out in my painting somehow.

Peter’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Friday 16 June until Saturday 24 June 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson (Communications & Events)

June Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists … Vivien Zhang

We caught up with our Abbey Scholar in Painting, Vivien Zhang, for whom the June Mostra will be her third exhibition at the BSR. Here she reflects upon her residency  and how being in Rome has had an impact upon her practice.


Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Vivien Zhang’s work looks at the idea of repetition and painting as a site for assemblage. Context-specific motifs, such as the mathematical shape gömböc and aluminium foil, enact as well as interrupt fields of repetition. Layering in Zhang’s work often simulates algorithms found in digital imaging software – an approach influenced by our ways of engaging with visual material today. Zhang explores through her work our expanding accessibility to images and information today, our shifting authorship and authority over such materials, and our increasing re-identification as trans-border inhabitants.

What will you be showing in the Mostra?

Trompe l’oeil! This is a preparatory drawing for the painting I’m showing in the Mostra-ultimo:


Preparatory drawing for Vivien’s June Mostra painting.

Has working in Rome stimulated any new projects in Italy for you outside of the BSR?

Definitely. I did a show called All As Long Distance Neighbours in a seaside town in Pescara, Abruzzo, at a new project space called SOYUZ. This was curated by Italian curator Marialuisa Pastò. And… a show at this absolutely out-of-this-world site in Tuscany, called Monteverdi. The Monteverdi Gallery is situated in a 900-year-old village on a hilltop in Tuscany, called Castiglioncello del Trinoro. The programme of the gallery is curated by UK-curator Sarah McCrory. The show had just finished this week.


Vivien’s work at the Monteverdi exhibition.


I was invited to collaborate with a gallery to exhibit at the Milanese art fair – MiArt. It was such an exciting project to have on my plate, though it was right after our March Mostra. It was an opportunity for me to learn about the Milanese art scene – one that’s exceptionally vibrant in Italy – and the city itself. Also through the project I met a bunch of brilliant people – both curators and artists!


Vivien’s work at the MiArt exhibition


Vivien’s work at the MiArt exhibition

You referred to some ancient elements last time – the Etruscan vase handles, the pointing hands from Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Have ancient motifs continued to be of inspiration? 

This one, a half-dolphin half-pirate figure, crept into my work. It comes from an Etruscan vase, now in the Toledo Museum of Art. It’s based on a tale about how Dionysos transformed pirates into dolphins and the pirates were captured in the middle of that transformation. The pirates were leaping into the sea from their ship in fear of a lion and a raging bear, which the god, angry, had invoked on their ship.

As you approach the end of your residency, what do you think you will miss the most about Rome?

The people I’ve met at the BSR, the community, and environment of this place. I think it’s pretty indescribable and can only be understood having experienced it… Everything from our Assistant Director’s Prosecco-segues to tales of the old girl Fragolina…

I will also be participating in High Noon, a group exhibition of works by artists from the different foreign academies in Rome. The opening of the show is on 24 June. Stay tuned…


Paths Stamper (Rip Tyde), Vivien Zhang, 2017, mixed media on canvas, 56 x 51 cm

And I am currently showing works at Art Basel in a group presentation. Here is one of the paintings you can see at the art fair:


Octant Bounty, Vivien Zhang, 2017, mixed media on canvas, 210 x 170 cm

Vivien’s work will be exhibited alongside the six other resident artists in the June Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Friday 16 June until Saturday 24 June 2017, closed Sundays.