Meet the artists: Eleni Odysseos

An interview with Eleni Odysseos, Abbey Fellow in Painting, in which she speaks about the works she has produced during her residency at the BSR from April–June 2021.

Photo by Antonio Pamieri.

Your research in Rome is inspired by art historian Anthi Andronikou’s article on the visual similarities in twelfth century medieval ecclesiastic painting in Cyprus and Puglia. Could you tell us more about this?

Anthi Andronikou maps similarities in ecclesiastical painting between Puglia, Cyprus, and Jerusalem, and suggests possible reasons for why those similarities exist.

The article suggests that these visual similarities were not circumstantial, but rather traces of collaboration, of a nomadic lifestyle where artists were borrowing from – and working with – one another. Even though their hagiographies would often address dissimilar audiences and different divisions of Christianity, they would do it using identical signs, therefore rendering their signifiers as “arbitrary”. 

Detail of wall painting, Abbazia di Sant’Angelo in Formis. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The rendering of those signifiers as “arbitrary” in the linguistic theory of signs, as Andronikou describes it, became a starting point for my interest in symbolic imagery. More specifically, it unfolded into an interest in how abstracted symbolic imagery becomes appropriated by different political systems, cults, and religions across time and space, to signify changing narratives. Symbolic imagery across the Roman period, through to the medieval and renaissance has accumulated in my studio, a process of embodying a language that is then materialised in painting, drawing, sound, and text.

Complesso Basilicale Paleocristiano in Cimitile. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Through this process, I am developing my own lexicon. It is a lexicon that addresses and embraces the fluidity of a present-day, surrealist femininity. Another section of Andronikou’s article I am drawn to, is the story of a group of nuns, organised by queen Alice of Champagne, who were relocated from Acre to Puglia, and who may have commissioned artists in that period – a possible reason that would explain why those visual similarities exist. Their tale triggered my curiosity, and I wanted to find out more about organised cults as well as the societal position of women in the medieval period. Rome offers many such stories, particularly from the Roman period, from Mithraism to the House of the Vestal Virgins. Dr. Maria Harvey, current fellow at the British School at Rome, prompted me to read Mary Wellesley’s This Place is Pryson published on the London Review of Books website in 2019.  The text describes the medieval ritual of an anchoress entering her cell as being very similar to a funeral procession. These medieval women would abandon their lives to reside in tiny cells until their death.  Wellesley’s description of this ritual opened new conversations within my practice: for example, how sacrifice is embedded in the female experience, how social structures and class feed these narratives, or how spirituality and wisdom are perceived differently when performed by different genders.

Detail of How Could I Forget You. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Your work seems to explore a transitional moment where anthropomorphic – mostly female – bodies are turning into entities with unclear and undefined outlines. Can you explain more?

Absolutely. My work explores desire, abjection, and isolation through symbolic figuration, choreographing a constellation of painting, text, sound, and light. I am interested in the fluid representation of hybrid creatures and the allegorical depiction of violence in medieval iconography. Animal-human identities are blurred, and creatures emerge from the fogginess of the mark-making process, from the flow of light and the luminosity of the paint. My time here in Rome has offered a wealth of symbolic references and styles of ornamentation. My studio walls and floor are filled with cut-outs, prints, drawings. The paintings are in a transitional moment, where their symbolic lexicon materialises in light, in figuration, or in the transparency of layered colours. The work is interested in entanglements. Moments of isolation, exchange, death and rebirth. Sacrifice, and companionship.

Eleni Odysseos’ studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser).

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/Meet the artists…Ursula Burke

U Burke, "Bruiser", 2014, Parian Porcelain

U Burke, “Bruiser”, 2014, Parian Porcelain

Ursula Burke’s (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow, January – June 2014) work deals with issues of representation and identity within post-conflict Northern Ireland.  Utilising a range of formal techniques drawn from the canon of fine art classicism, she sets up dialogue between idealised versions of society expressed through the classical period and potential constructions of the ideal within contemporary Northern Ireland.

Il lavoro di Ursula Burke (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow, gennaio – giugno 2014) tratta i problemi legati alla rappresentazione e all’identità nel contesto post-conflittuale dell’Irlanda del Nord. Utilizzando diversi medium tratti dai canoni dell’arte classica Burke crea un dialogo tra versioni idealizzate della società del periodo classico e potenziali ricostruzioni dell’ideale nell’Irlanda del Nord di oggi.


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 13 June 2014 18.30. Dates: 14 – 21 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30-19.00. Join the Facebook group here.



June Mostra/Meet the artists…Annika Koops

A Koops, "Dirt Genius", 2013, 85 x 61 cm C-Type Print

A Koops, “Dirt Genius”, 2013, 85 x 61 cm C-Type Print

Annika Koops’ (Australia Council Resident, April – June 2014) work reflects upon the breakdown of barriers between physical and virtual space. The interchange of animate and inanimate objects is explored in relation to our increased interfacing with technological objects and reliance upon automated guidance. The role that pattern and algorithm plays in our perception of the visual world manifests in the work through cryptic symbolism and iconographic representation. By alluding at once to Proto-Renaissance painting and digital imaging her work reflects upon the persistence of historical aesthetics, resulting in works that are highly synthetic and temporally indefinite.

I lavori di Annika Koops (Australia Council Resident, aprile – giugno 2014) riflettono sulla rottura delle barriere tra lo spazio fisico e virtuale e le implicazioni psicologiche.  Lo scambio tra oggetti animati e inanimati è studiato in relazione al nostro crescente confrontarsi con oggetti tecnologici e l’affidamento sulla guida automatica.  Il ruolo giocato dalle serie e gli algoritmi nella nostra percezione del mondo visivo si manifesta nell’opera attraverso un simbolismo criptico e una rappresentazione iconografica.  Alludendo sia alla pittura proto-rinascimentale e alla riproduzione digitale, il lavoro medita sulla persistenza dell’estetica storica, dando luogo ad opere estremamente sintetiche e temporalmente indefinite.


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 13 June 2014 18.30. Dates: 14 – 21 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30-19.00. Join the Facebook group here.



June Mostra/Meet the artists…Cathy Lomax

C Lomax, 'Belladonna' series, oil and acrylic on paper, 30x23cm each, 2014

C Lomax, “Belladonna” series, 2014, oil and acrylic on paper, 30x23cm each

Cathy Lomax’s (Abbey Fellow in Painting, April – June 2014) work is rooted in the romance of popular culture. She assimilates media fictions, mythologies and the realities around fame and glamour, and juxtaposes these with elements of personal identity to create new narratives that skirt around reality to hint at a curious contemporary longing for something unobtainable. Her focus in Rome has been on the city’s relationship with appearance and how this has been represented on film. This has manifested in a series of works preoccupied with re-creation, emptiness, transience and the surface of things.

Le opere di Cathy Lomax (Abbey Fellow in Painting, aprile – giugno 2014) sono radicate nel romanticismo della cultura popolare.  L’artista assimila le finzioni mediatiche, le mitologie e le realtà intorno a fama e glamour, giustapponendoli ad elementi dell’identità personale, creando così nuovi racconti che confinano con la realtà, e suggerendo ad un curioso desiderio contemporaneo per qualcosa di inottenibile.  Nella città di Roma, l’interesse dell’artista si è focalizzato sulla relazione esistente tra letteratura, cinema e glamour, manifestando una particolare attenzione per la ri-creazione, la vuotezza e la superficie delle cose.


BSR Fine Arts June Mostra opens Friday 13 June 2014 18.30. Dates: 14 – 21 June (excluding Sunday). Hours: 16.30-19.00. Join the Facebook group here.