June Mostra 2016 / Meet the artists … Joseph Griffiths

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 in four days we spoke to Joseph Griffiths about how his time in Rome has influenced what material he chose to work with, as well as how living at the BSR stimulated his creative process.

Joseph Griffiths (Australia Council Resident)


Joseph Griffiths’ drawings, sculptures and site-specific installations include reconstructed sandstone ruins, archaeological illustrations, improvised living structures, and carved sculptural artefacts.  They are camouflaged replicas of imagined parent-objects, which condense the ancient and the present, the natural and the cultural, growth and decay.  His Fountains assemble travertine, marble, water, moss, light and sound to form an ecosystem – a fragile network of relations between the significance of water in ancient Rome, the geological formation of Travertine and the acoustic territory of church bells, with cycles of entropy and regrowth.

As part of your residency you have been in the field with the Archaeology department of the BSR, how does this interest feed into your work?

I worked with the Archaeology department doing a geophysical survey near Portus, with the aim of locating moles and a Pharos associated with the Claudian port, that was built there. What interested me about the GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) is that in order to map the subterranean landscape, you actually have to traverse the full surface at a one to one scale dragging the antennae. You make an image by moving through space, it becomes a physical drawing tool, with a lot of potential for my work. As archaeologists, we were looking for man-made forms, trying to detect from the GPR images human traces amongst basically natural substrate. Instead we found very distinctive and expressive lines of geological banding, left behind by centuries of retreating coastline. It’s plausible to imagine that such natural occurrences were influenced by infrastructural projects, the diverting of water sources which were crucial to ancient roman city building.

How does your interest in this translate into your art?

The history of Rome is known more than anything else through its material artifacts,  and what artists and archaeologists often share is to try to understand people’s behaviour through their objects, images, material culture. The archaeological work was an important transition in my thinking, as it showed how the the historical binary between nature and  culture are often merged or interdependent. By not finding the man-made thing, not being able to delineate a straight line or something associated with the man-made, but yet finding these other marks that look very textural reminds you that a culture like Rome was making these infrastructure changes like rerouting rivers, they were contributing to their landscape as well as being influenced by it. The geological banding that we found in this particular case may not have been caused by Roman history, but it could have been, which is what made it interesting for me.

I have been working with travertine, which is a stone which is formed by the geothermic processing of calcium-carbonate in groundwater seepage though the bedrock. It was used prominently in Roman architecture and in today’s streetscape, and this notion of seepage became interesting in its relation to the radar, seeping through the layers of the earth and forming an image of the hardest material, of the most resistance. For the upcoming mostra I’m making a series of ‘fountains’ which are about as simple a fountain as you can make; it’s basically a roof leak and a puddle. However, this is in reference to this formation process, trying to deal with this seepage and the cycles of geological decay and formation, which have produced the travertine tiles which form part of the installation.

Have there been any sculptures in Rome that have inspired you?

In terms of travertine I think that it has been the abundance of its uses and its endless variation, the way that the oxygen and moisture escapes from the stone and leaves it with a beautiful surface, superficially I am very attracted to that. However I am most interested in how the same material is used in both the most sophisticated and elaborate monuments, but also in street pavements and very perfunctory things, and how often it is in a state of disrepair – there are chunks of it laying around, you gain a very immediate understanding of the weight of it. Even if you don’t have access to use the material itself you can move it in the street, there is an immediate connection between the influence of the materials and how the weight of something determines how you position it.

Has your interest in these materials been inspired by your residency at the BSR?

I certainly wouldn’t be looking at travertine if I wasn’t in Rome, and I don’t think I would be looking at fountains either. The presence of water and the value of water, not just as a life source, but also as a symbolic triumph or trophy. The fountains herald the great civic achievement of the empire and there is a very interesting relationship when you confront this. The ancient waterways were in need of constant maintenance because of the huge build-up of calcium carbonate from the water.

What has been your favourite thing about your time as an award-holder at the BSR?

The whole process has allowed me to be exploratory and I have the time and support to challenge myself to work in ways I normally wouldn’t and with materials that I am not used to. Part of that is to do with the impossibility of imposing too much on Rome, so my work has become quite light of touch here. But it’s also been to do with this complete privilege of time and space that you wouldn’t get when you are at home in your own studio and with the normal day-to-day requirements of life. It’s really the time we have as artists at the BSR that is so important. In terms of the BSR itself it has to be the conversation; the collection and community of people who are here at any one time has been amazingly fruitful. Edmund [Thomas, Balsdon Fellow]’s talk about the Pantheon threshold got me very excited at the beginning, and from working with the archaeology department, with Steve Kay [Archaeology Officer] and Sophie Hay [Geophysics Officer]. The depth and quality of having a conversation ongoing for three months, with the other artists here and scholars is very unique. I can almost map all the moves I have made here based on those conversations and influence I have had from the great people here.

Joseph’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.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Daniel Sinsel

Daniel Sinsel, Untitled, 2014. Oil on linen, nutshells, 150x130x10cm

Daniel Sinsel (Abbey Fellow in Painting April–June 2015)

I will eventually spell out the name H Ä N S E L. (Not only do Hänsel and I share the same number of letters in my first and surname, but also actual letters.) He was Gretel’s brother. He was captured and fed by a witch who was keen to have him as a roast dinner. His sister managed to rescue him.

My plan is to tell some of the story visually. I will use some Roman and Gothic lettering. By means of Italian earth pigments I tried to create some culinary allure to baking, roasting and cooking. I looked at a lot of Roman (marble) penes here. So I made two for Hänsel. I looked at frescoes and mosaics. I love the telling of stories combined with interior decoration. It’s a nice way to live.

Prima o poi riuscirò a compitare il nome H Ä N S E L (Non solo ho lo stesso numero di lettere nel mio nome a cognome come H Ä N S E L, ma anche le lettere stesse). Era il fratello di Gretel. Fu catturato e nutrito da una stregha che lo voleva mangiare per cena. La sorella riuscì a salvarlo.

Il mio piano è di narrare la storia con elementi visivi. Userò lettere romane e gotiche. Grazie all’uso di pigmenti italiani a base di terra ho provato a creare un richiamo culinario alla cottura al forno, all’arrosto, e alla cucina. Ho guardato molti peni romani (in marmo) durante la mia residenza, così ho deciso di farne due per Hänsel. Ho continuato a studiare affreschi e mosaici. Amo narrare storie combinandole con decorazioni per interni. È un bel modo di vivere.


Daniel Sinsel. Photo: Antonio Palmieri.


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Catherine O’Donnell


Garbatella,  2015. Charcoal on paper,  76.5 x 56 cm

Catherine O’Donnell, Garbatella, 2015. Charcoal on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm


Catherine O’Donnell (National Art School, Sydney, Resident in Drawing April-June 2015)

I am interested in the urban aesthetics that shape and inform our everyday lives, and the way in which the architectural vernacular of the places we regularly inhabit becomes recessed into our minds like wallpaper – present but at the same time invisible. Drawing for me is a way of redefining these spaces; not merely a ‘copy’ of ‘reality’ but rather a recycled, re-contextualised and abstracted transcription with a strong emphasis on the geometric form; resulting in a distilled version of the everyday environment.

Sono interessata all’estetica urbana che condiziona e informa le nostre vite quotidiane, e la maniera in cui il vernacolo architettonico dei luoghi che occupiamo regolarmente recede nella nostra mente, come una carta da parati – presente ma allo stesso tempo invisibile. Disegnare per me è un modo di ridefinire questi spazi; non una semplice copia della realtà, ma una trascrizione riciclata, ricontestualizzata e astratta, con una forte enfasi sulla forma geometrica. Questo produce una versione distillata del nostro panorama quotidiano.


Catherine O'Donnell, Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Catherine O’Donnell, Photo: Antonio Palmieri

BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Angela Brennan

Angela Brennan, Classics, 2014. Oil on linen, 180 x 180 cm.

Angela Brennan, Classics, 2014. Oil on linen, 180 x 180 cm.



Angela Brennan (Australia Council Resident April–June 2015)

This group of paintings includes a double portrait based on statuary in Palazzo Massimo, a portrait of St Francis of Assisi, an old Latin transcription of a quote by Agamben and an abstract painting. My painting practice moves between different subjects and motifs, making representations not of things in themselves, but of how things could be in multiple temporalities and spaces. I am concerned with the effects of internalising the external; like the Kantian mirror, painting intercedes, to then face the world.

Questo gruppo di dipinti include un doppio ritratto che trae spunto da alcune statue che si trovano a Palazzo Massimo, un ritratto di San Francesco d’Assisi, una vecchia trascrizione latina di una citazione di Agamben, e un dipinto astratto. La mia ricerca pittorica fluttua tra vari soggetti e motivi, creando non rappresentazioni di cose, ma di come queste cose potrebbero esistere in molteplici luoghi e spazi temporali. Sono interessata agli effetti di interiorizzare l’esterno; come lo specchio di Kant, la pittura intercede, per poi affacciarsi al mondo.

BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Nancy Milner

Nancy Milner, Untitled, 2015. Oil on canvas, 75x60cm

Nancy Milner, Untitled, 2015. Oil on canvas, 75x60cm


Nancy Milner (Abbey Scholar in Painting 2014-15)

I make paintings that use colour and form to investigate light and space in painting. My thinking centres on the relationship between painting and architectural space. I am interested in the ways that our day-to-day lives are ordered and the influence this has on the painting process. In the process of painting a dialogue between myself and the painting opens up a space where decisions are challenged and pushed. The finished paintings are an accumulation of the time taken to make them, a manifestation of thinking, memory and experience in the space of painting.

Produco dipinti che sfruttano colore e forma per investigare concetti pittorici di luce e spazio. La mia ricerca si incentra sul rapporto tra la pittura e lo spazio architettonico. Sono interessata ai modi in cui la nostra vita quotidiana si organizza e a l’influenza questo ha sul processo pittorico. Nel processo pittorico, un dialogo si forma tra me e il dipinto, che da luogo a decisioni contestate e azzardate. I dipinti, una volta ultimati, sono il risultato di un’accumulazione del tempo trascorso per realizzarli, e la manifestazione di pensieri, ricordi, ed esperienze nello spazio pittorico.

Nancy Milner, Photo: Antonio Palmieri

BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Alexi Keywan

Alexi Keywan, The passenger no.17. Pen on paper, 32 x 25 cm. Photo: By Artist.


Alexi Keywan (William Fletcher Foundation Scholar April–June 2015)

It is difficult not to be awestruck and swayed by the weight of art and history that Rome holds, but also something that cannot be ignored. My practice addresses themes of location and dislocation through representing utilitarian objects, symbols and spaces that populate our lives. Rome is both a living museum and an expanding city with multiple histories that can be seen and felt in its streets, structure and architecture. The work I have made here is a dialogue between the physical forms that evince power and progress, to the confessions of those that build and inhabit it – the relationship between tangible space and the psychological.

È difficile non rimanere impressionati ed influenzati dal peso della storia e dell’arte di Roma, ma ciò non può neanche essere ignorato. La mia ricerca esplora il tema del luogo e della dislocazione tramite la rappresentazione di oggetti pratici, simboli, e spazi che ci circondano e popolano le nostre vite. Roma è allo stesso tempo museo vivente e città in continua espansione, con molteplici storie che possono essere viste e vissute nelle sue strade, le sue strutture, la sua architettura. Il lavoro che ho prodotto durante la mia residenza si presenta come un dialogo tra le forme fisiche che manifestano immagini di potere e progresso, e le confessioni degli abitanti che li costruiscono e ci abitano – il rapporto tra lo spazio tangibile e quello psicologico.


Alexi Keywan, Photo: Catherine O’Donnell


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.

June Mostra/Meet the Artists… Rowena Harris

Rowena Harris, Searching for a sense of balance (part 3) – detail, 2015. Concrete, 28 x 21 x 6cm.


Rowena Harris (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture 2014–15)

I had, of course, a long time ago, stopped thinking of myself as real. Well at some point I realised that virtual and reality are all but the same. So a sense of realness or having a distinction between myself as I and my body as I, or somehow comprehending the whole of my being as some kind of distinct singular entity, has, well, gone array. I have been trying to figure this out, you know, as an abstract exercise. Figuring Rome would be a place to find my missing parts. It’s a place for the body, for the senses – in the architecture, the streets and around. I thought they might be scattered on the ground somewhere, caught in petrified cement perhaps. I’m still hopeful I will find them.

Ho smesso tempo fa, naturalmente, di pensare a me stessa come persona reale. Ad un certo punto ho capito che il virtuale e la realtà sono pressoché la stessa cosa. Quindi il bisogno di aggrapparsi a un senso di realtà, o immaginare una distinzione tra il me come io e il mio corpo come io, o provare in qualche modo a comprendere tutto il mio essere come una singola entità, si è più o meno perso. Ho continuato a provare a chiarire questo concetto, sai, come un esercizio astratto. Pensando che Roma sarebbe un posto dove trovare i pezzi mancanti. È una città per il corpo, i sensi – nell’architettura, nelle strade e nei dintorni. Ho pensato che forse questi pezzi potrebbero essere sparpagliati da qualche parte, forse incastonati nel cemento. Sono ancora dell’idea che li troverò.


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 12 June 2015 18.30. Dates: 13–20 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30–19.00. Read the Press Release here or join the facebook event here.