A look back at the June Mostra 2016

In case you weren’t able to attend the June Mostra showing works produced by our seven resident artists from April to June, we have compiled our favourites from the official photographs of the exhibition (photographer: Roberto Apa). You can read the individual blogs published about each of the artists by clicking on an artist’s name.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the kind support and generosity of The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Australia Council for the Arts, the Helpmann Academy, The Incorporated Edwin Austin Abbey Memorial Scholarships, The Linbury Trust and The National Art School, Sydney.

BSR - June 2016 - 039Gallery installation view

BSR - June 2016 - 021Gallery installation view

BSR - June 2016 - 025Corridor installation view

BSR - June 2016 - 028Foyer installation view


David Ryan (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

David Ryan, Variazioni Oblique dopo Balla Futurista, oil on linen, 15 x 20 cm, 30 paintings


Ross Taylor (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

BSR - June 2016 - 002

Ross Taylor, B, paint and ink on paper, 272 x 727 cm


Damien Duffy (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

Damien Duffy, False Flag, mixed media, plinth, oil and acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable

Damien Duffy, Back Stab, oil on canvas, flowers, dimensions variable


Joseph Griffiths (Australia Council Resident)

Joseph Griffiths, Fountains, water, travertine, silicon, irrigation tubes, sound, dimensions variable


Deborah Prior (Helpmann Academy Resident)

Deborah Prior, Lupa, found woolen blanket, pillow, stain, mixed media, dimensions variable


Margaret Roberts (National Art School, Sydney, Resident in Drawing)

Margaret Roberts, left to right: Ground Plan, tulle, elastic, nails, 110 x 240 cm; Triangle & Circle, graphite, wood, nails, 300 x 300 cm


Rachel Adams (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

Rachel Adams, left to right: Unravelled 1, tye-dye fabric on timber, stainless steel, t-shirt yarn, 125 x 73 cm; Scuttle Shuttle Shuffle, laser cut acrylic, fabric, timber, t-shirt yarn, 50 x 48 cm; See Saws, laser cut acrylic, fabric, timber, 113 x 113 x 25 cm; Unravelled 2, tye-dye fabric on timber, laser cut acrylic, t-shirt yarn, 150 x 120 cm

June Mostra 2016 / Meet the artists … Damien Duffy

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to our seven resident artists who will be exhibiting in the June Mostra on Friday 17 June. With the mostra opening at the end of this week we meet with Damien Duffy to find out what artwork he has made for the exhibtion and how his residency at the BSR has affected how he appraches his practice.

Damien Duffy (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)


Damien Duffy’s work continues within the thread of taking landmark works as ready-mades in order to shift their agency to address new meanings and contexts.  Looking awry at history painting these works co-opt an appropriation of Jasper Johns’ White Flag and Sturtevant’s copy of the same. False Flag opens the question on ambiguity of authorship that morphs into questions on recent history, counter narratives and 9/11. Back Stab similarly looks at the nefarious Operation Gladio within the ‘anni di piombo’ in Italy in the 70s.

This is your second mostra at the BSR, how has your work changed in the last three months and what have you chosen to exhibit this time?

Making the piece for the last mostra made me rethink how I approached my original idea and it is this reassessment that has been one of the most positive aspects from my time as a resident here, it has also given me more confidence to adopt a certain approach about how I make work.

I have two pieces of work for the upcoming mostra. In a strange kind of a way they are history paintings that have been born out of recognising the appropriation I used of Twombly’s motifs in order to deal with current events in the Mediterranean. That’s not to say I simply want my work to engage solely as history paintings because these works are a more skewed approach to history painting, like Hegels’ owl of Minerva hitting a sheet glass window, there’s a kernel of subversion in them.

They are looking at events within the 20th and 21st century, but through counter narratives. History is written by the victors, however with the super abundance of other information the victor’s narrative is now more vulnerable to counter narratives and these are often denigrated as conspiracy.

With the two pieces of work I’m making for this mostra, one looks at one of the pivotal events of the 21st century, 9/11. The title of the piece is False Flag and it harnesses a system of suggested references.

As soon as you paint an American Flag there is an immediate reference to the artist Jasper Johns as he made the American flag pivotal in his work. The second painting of the flag that I’m working with is Stutevant’s copy of the Johns.

The copy and the original together brings up the question of authorship, the pieces will be hung quite high on the wall with the stripes of the flags extending down the wall in a very mute grey, that also being an indirect reference to Daniel Buren, an adaptation of his work that gives the two flags the profile of the world trade centre towers.

The term ‘false flag’, although at first glance might reference a question of authorship, is actually a term used in a military event when a country attacks or stages an attack upon itself in order to attack a particular target or a particular enemy. So the false flag narrative or counter narrative is something that exists in the popular sub-cultural consciousness,this work then proffers this idea that there is another narrative to be looked at when concerning 9/11. These paintings along with a small sculpture of a tin foil hat in the foreground. This object inserts an element of subversive humour into this piece. Like a memorial to the fallen, with the helmet of a solders, or the folk memorials to first responders, so the tin foil hat represents the denigrating headgear of the conspiracy theorists. In its ambiguity it seeks to question the counter narrative as much as it profers it.

The other piece is an indirect reference to events in Italy during the ‘anni di piombo’ or the ‘Years of Lead’, a period of political instability in the 1970s and 1980s. Within my research of that which has come to light is the American intelligence’s involvement in generating some of the nefarious events of the 1970s in order to destabilise an Italian left-wing government. This suspicion that has been evidenced as ‘real’ in this case underpins the counter narrative in the other work. This piece is called Back Stab as it stabs backwards into history but it is also a back stab at making a political art, as it gets subsumed into an aesthetic.

This piece is made by a pouring of white lead paint over a black background – this gives an appearance of a lead mirror, alongside this a vase of white Gladioli, a reference to Operation Gladio. So what might appear as just a pretty piece of gallery decoration is basically the sublimation of this piece of political artwork into a generic aesthetic, or its subversive presence within these generic aesthetic references. It flickers between these two states.

Both of your pieces for the upcoming mostra have this 3D relief effect where the artwork extends beyond the wall. Is that an intentional move to create a theme in your work?

The flag piece is something that stems from the original painting from Jasper Johns and his intention to underscore the objecthood of the painting. It will always flicker between being a painting and a representation of the flag, but it is also a flag at the same time. However, one of the things that has come to light in how I approach making work here is a desire to keep pieces of work in as close proximity to the ‘real’ as possible. Trying to avoid distractions, stripping out the ‘painterliness’, make them more ‘in’ the world. They are not idealised, their matter-of-factness is what I’m trying to underscore.

Looking at your practice more closely, you seem to be someone who — once you have an idea — will work on it as you create the art. I have seen the False Flag piece a number of times during its creation and each time it is different. Do you often work in this layered process?

One of the things that has come to light in the process of working here is that I have made pieces of work that appear to be almost too complete at a very early stage of their creation. What I’ve learned from the residency is possibly allowing that ‘completeness’ to rest and work with it. With these two paintings, because they are concerned with a certain replication I’ve been trying to get that replication right. This has created its own problems that requires a renegotiation of how that looks and what I want in the work. The various transformations that you have seen are the physical evidence of where I have worked through it mentally and then physically changed tack.

Is there anything in your practice that has particularly changed since being here that you are wanting to take home with you. Either ideas or ways of working that you have adopted since being a resident of the BSR?

Definitely in terms of how I approach things, being at the BSR has given me more confidence in terms of how I approach making work, even though my work is primarily painting they come from a conceptual background and that has very much intensified here. In terms of taking ideas away there is a huge swathe of ideas that I have that I don’t have time to address here. I expect the processing of that will occur when I leave Rome and there is a very specific body of work which I want to make which will be specifically about my experience of certain aspects of Rome.

Damien’s work will be exhibited alongside the other six resident artists in the June Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 June until Saturday 25 June 2016, closed Sundays.

Photo by Antonio Palmieri, interview conducted by Katherine Paines.

Six Nations

In the days after many celebrate the highly successful partnership of Italy and England on the football fields of Leicester, we thought we would take a look at the BSR’s many international relationships.

The BSR was delighted to be part of the global Shakespeare 2016 Anniversary events. Here in Italy, we enjoyed a week-long series of events entitled Shakespeare Memory of Rome 2016, in which the BSR and the British Council were official partners. We are very grateful to Maria del Sapio and Maddalena Pennacchia, from Università Roma Tre, and Iolanda Plescia, from Sapienza, Università di Roma, for their collaboration in organising one day of the conference in front of a packed Sainsbury Lecture Theatre at the BSR. Andrew Hadfield from Sussex University, a previous Society for Renaissance Studies lecturer at the BSR, and Lisa Hopkins from Sheffield Hallam University were among those staying at the BSR for the events. We also invited Roy Stephenson from our own partner institution, the Museum of London, who gave a brilliant lecture on Shakespeare’s London.

The conference was complemented by a splendid performance by Shakespeare’s Globe of Hamlet at Palazzo della Cancelleria, organised by HM Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker.

The same week we were delighted to host Paul Binski (Professor of the History of Medieval Art, and Head of the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge) to give our annual W.T.C. Walker Lecture in Architectural History on ‘Rome and England in the Gothic Age’. Rome may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking about the gothic, but, with his trademark silver-tongued erudition, Paul demonstrated stamps and echoes of romanitas in some of England’s most familiar Gothic cathedrals.


It was a delight see former award-holder Marcella Sutcliffe (University of Cambridge) return to the BSR earlier this month to give a lecture on humanities activists in the Great War, including the role played by the BSR’s third Director Thomas Ashby in the British Red Cross on the Italian front.


The opportunity for a senior scholar researching Anglo-Italian artistic and cultural relations or Grand Tour subjects to join our community is currently being offered in the form of a fellowship offered by the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art – details can be found here http://www.paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk/fellowships-and-grants/opportunities/rome-fellowship/. The deadline for applications is 23 May 2016. You can read what this year’s Paul Mellon Centre Rome Fellow Caspar Pearson had to say about his time at the BSR here: http://www.paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk/whats-on/news/caspar-pearson-rome-fellow/.

Lest we should appear too Anglocentric: on the awards front, our Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow Damien Duffy continues to enthral us; we have just had an early visit from Kelly Best, who will be our inaugural Creative Wales-BSR Fellow next year. We were excited to be invited to hear about the history of the Venerable English College – the oldest continuously existing English and Welsh institution abroad – at their sede around the corner from Campo de’ Fiori recently. Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, visited to present an AHRC-funded project on early video art in Italy, and we shall soon host the Glasgow School of Art who will be presenting their major restoration project to a large Rome audience. A conference on the fascinating sixteenth-century figure of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone takes us across the Irish Sea. To cap our Six Nations, we are currently enjoying a successful collaboration with our French colleagues at the Villa Medici on our recent architecture programme Meeting Architecture: Fragments.

Christopher Smith (Director) and Tom True (Assistant Director)

A look back at the March Mostra 2016

Just in case you weren’t able to attend the March Mostra showing works produced by our six resident artists from January to March, we have compiled our favourites from the official photographs of the exhibition. (Photographer: Roberto Apa). You can read the individual blog published about each of the artists by clicking on that artist’s name.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the kind support and generosity of The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Australia Council for the Arts, Conseil des Arts et des Lettres Québec, The Incorporated Edwin Austin Abbey Memorial Scholarships and The Linbury Trust.

Our June Mostra will be taking place on Friday 17 June.

Main gallery viewGallery installation view

_APA5431Gallery installation view

_APA5474 copiaFoyer installation view


Anne Ryan (Abbey Fellow in Painting)


Anne Ryan, left to right: Io Saturnalia, acrylic on card, dimensions variable
Untitled (Dérive), watercolour on paper, dimensions variable


Ross Taylor (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

Ross Taylor, left to right: Box of teeth, oil, pastel and pencil on linen, 130 x 110 cm
The Bony Labyrinth, oil, pastel and pencil on linen, 120 x 150 cm,
Tanaquai, oil, pastel and pencil on linen, 39 x 30 cm
Bad blood and eggy piss, oil, pastel and pencil on linen, 27 x 40 cm
Big ginger son, oil, pastel and pencil on linen, 45 x 60 cm


Damien Duffy (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)


Damien Cropped

Damien Duffy, Sea Ghost Audit, acrylic on canvas, 300 x 230 cm


Michelle Ussher (Australia Council Resident)


Michelle Ussher, left to right: Biatches, oil on linen, 65 x 80 cm
Porn classic with middle-aged brunette, oil on linen, 50.5 x 40 cm


Jonas St. Michael (Québec Resident)

Panoramica_senza titolo1.jpg

JOnas Cropped

Jonas St. Michael, Untitled, photographic print, 180 x 150 cm (x2)


Rachel Adams (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

Chairs cropped

Rachel Adams, Heritage Work 1 and 2, tie-dyed cotton, timber, t-shirt yarn, zinc brackets and steel tube, 50 x 50 x 85 cm

March Mostra 2016/ Meet the artists… Damien Duffy

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to the six resident artists who will be exhibiting in the March Mostra on Friday 18 March. With under one week to go, we spoke to Damien Duffy in his studio to find out more about him and his work.

Damien Duffy (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)


Damien Duffy’s work continues here with a thread of appropriation of landmark works, in order to engage new readings. Previous re-makings include Duchamp’s Large Glass and The Citizen by Richard Hamilton; a ventriloquism which in this instance uses the work of Cy Twombly. This piece casts a disenchanted eye on the privileging of the poetic over the political. Paired with lines from the poem ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ by C P Cavafy it alludes to contemporary events in the Mediterranean.

Your opening project here is focusing on the work of the American/Italian artist Cy Twombly.

As a critique of Twombly, his paintings have a very luxurious and poetic quality. What I’ve been interested in while I’m here is trying to pick apart is this luxurious, poetic nature of his work.

Twombly made a series of paintings of a sea battle entitled Lepanto inspired by the battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire – a lot of his work deals with Mediterranean mythology and the migration from Syria and Greece over to Italy and the transferred myth. My work is accounting for that, so all the poetry has been evacuated from that. It reduces the images down to the black and white of a receipt and the title of the piece is Sea Ghost Audit so there is also an illusion to an audit of what is currently going on in the Mediterranean, using Twombly’s de-poeticised imagery.

Twombly’s Lepanto was all made on a large scale: three metres by two metres. My original idea was to make one big canvas with all the images from Lepanto superimposed onto it. Conversations I had here while in the early stages of making it led to stopping that as the artwork started taking a sense of elegance in its own right. That is something that is probably fed out of the experience of Rome. You come here [Rome] with a set of ideas but the city permeates into you in a different way, at first you are overwhelmed with the former grandeur and the elegant melancholic nature of the architecture and art. If you look at some of the artwork, like the frescoes from Livia’s Garden in Palazzo Massimo, the painting is almost heartbreakingly beautiful. That then tends to condition how you start to perceive where your work might sit within the broader contemporary spectrum against the context of a bigger historical spectrum as well.

The gain from being here is a sense of over-sight; you are in a city that ties everything together. Particularly within the BSR, you are given the privilege of living in an environment that is saturated with culture and full of other artists and scholars leading to a very privileged overview. It gives you opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have as you are not in Rome as a tourist. You are here as a researcher and you have this experience that is a subversion of tourism, consumed in a different way.

Do you think your use of Cy Twombly’s work has been different because you have been living in the same place that he did?

Definitely, I think that the work takes on a different and particular pertinence given that it has been made here; it casts a disenchanted eye upon Twombly’s practice in order to try and deal with the current migration of refugees from wars in the Middle East and Africa.

It has also led to other ideas as well, as a consequence of that. This is a body of work that extends beyond a set of appropriations. I have worked on a Duchamp piece, a Richard Hamilton piece, this is a Twombly piece. There is potentially yet another appropriation piece that has come out of this which I have just thought about in the making of this work. But there is also a new body of ideas that have extended from my response to being here in Rome, and it is not necessarily a response to the place as a geographical location. Living within the BSR gives you an affirmation of the value of what you are doing that shifts it to another level, which is nice!

You talk about the Palazzo Massimo. Do you think it is the immersive nature of the decoration in Livia’s Garden Room that draws you in? Is this something you are intending to replicate in your work or is the larger scale of your piece, emulating a wall fresco painting, a coincidence?

This specific piece of work is framed by the project proposal that I applied with. After the first few weeks of being here I was reticent about continuing with it, however, taking the time to think about what I will do made me realise that this is still a valid piece of work to make and that in the making of it, it has changed and has brought on a new sense of elegance. The fact that this is in line with the scale and immersiveness of Livia’s wall paintings is coincidental but the wall paintings have a grandeur and level of decoration, complete with darker elements, that is almost characteristic of Rome, which has undoubtedly fed into my work.

Do you have anything else to add about Rome?

The city: there is a particular elegance to the place, and even though it is a capital, it has a very relaxed tempo that is very conducive to introspection. It seems almost like it has been like this throughout the history of the city.

In the first few weeks here I saw one visual that was completely characteristic of the collation of all the layers. We were walking back from getting a pizza after seeing a gallery show and we were walking down a set of steps between two apartment blocks near the colosseum. On the stairs there was a group of Ethiopian guys hanging out and chatting, you could tell this was a place they were very comfortable in. They were all sitting around with a mobile phone that was playing Mahler, you know the classical music. You just got this feeling that you were in this eternal city and there was the evidence of migratory populations sitting together listening to this nineteenth century Romantic music on a mobile phone – this scene just kind of nailed it for me, I just thought that really characterised the place.

You have spoken a lot about a sense of elegance that you feel has come from Rome. Is this something that is different to the work you were producing in Ireland?

Yes I think so because in the context of Ireland, and being Irish in the UK there is a political element that always shadows your work. Now that’s not to say that all the work I had produced before coming here was political but even trying to move away from that, the decisions that you make are almost political themselves.  Coming out of that context you get this cultural saturation, more often than not my work is characterised by what I don’t allow myself to do. So being with the context of Rome there are new elements that I will allow myself to do, this stems from the ambient elegance of Rome.


Damien’s work will be exhibited alongside the other five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 19 March until Friday 25 March 2016.

Photo by Antonio Palmieri