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 magnificently wrought picture…a most pious image’

On 7 March 2016, Dr Gabriele Finaldi (Director, National Gallery, London) gave a talk entitled Rogier van der Weyden and the encounter between faith and art as part of our BSR at the British Academy lecture series.

Rogier van der WeydenSaint Luke drawing the Virgin, c. 1435-40Oil on panel, 137.5 x 110.8 cmBoston, Museum of Fine Arts

Rogier van der Weyden, St Luke Drawing the Virgin, c. 1435-40, oil on panel, 137.5 x 110.8 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

‘As part of the British Academy’s season of lectures and events on faith, we were delighted to invite Dr Gabriele Finaldi, co-curator of the National Gallery’s millennium exhibition Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ. Gabriele — then still at the Prado — kindly said yes. I was intrigued to learn that he intended to speak to us about Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–64) — the great Early Netherlandish master — but knew him well enough to be reassured there would be good reason.

Upon taking the stage on 7 March, Gabriele (now of course Director of the National Gallery) confessed that the most Italian thing about his talk would be his own name. The packed room (we were, understandably, oversubscribed) laughed. But this was not true, as he explained that the great Burgundian court painter enjoyed great fame in Italy in his lifetime. Quoting Rogier’s contemporary Cyriacus of Ancona, who had been shown the artist’s work by Leonello d’Este, we were asked to focus on his descriptions: ‘magnificently wrought’ and ‘a most pious image’. We were then helped, with these two descriptive lenses to hand, to look very closely at some of Rogier’s key paintings, and to understand why Italy was in thrall to this northern artist.

Gabriele focused our gaze first on the composition of the paintings, then on their intricate details, reminding us of both the importance of the liturgical or scriptural accuracy of what we were seeing and the artistic innovation displayed by Rogier. Our close looking at masterpieces, combined with the speaker’s words, rewarded us: the delicate metalpoint drawing of the Virgin in St Luke Drawing the Virgin (MFA, Boston); the playful Christ child in the Durán Madonna (Prado, Madrid) grabbing the book held by his mother; the intense devotional contemplation in The Magdalen Reading (National Gallery, London); and the cleverly composed liturgical narrative in The Seven Sacraments (KMSKA, Antwerp).

The Prado’s jewel, The Descent from the Cross, provided arguably the most dramatic impact. The device of compressing the scene within its compositional frame immediately lends a discomfort to the viewer, but it is the virtuosity of the finish and the emotion of each figure which help convey such a vivid sense of pathos. The final image in Gabriele’s talk was the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John (Escorial, Madrid), possibly the artist’s final work, which is not only a stunning painting but also a marvel of careful conservation.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross, before 1443, oil on panel, 220.5 x 259.5 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, deposited by the Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross, before 1443, oil on panel, 220.5 x 259.5 cm,
Museo Nacional del Prado, deposited by the Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid.

The BSR has a proud tradition of scholarship on the relationship between northern European culture and Italy, and this paper was a perfect complement to the careful scholarship of, for instance, Dr Sue Russell (BSR Assistant Director) on Herman van Swanevelt, or Austėja Mackelaitė (Rome Scholar 2014-15) on Marten van Heemskerck — and we could list many more. The lecture encouraged us to look closely and to think about what we were seeing, how it reflected contemporary religious belief and in what ways it might have influenced later artists. In viewing these magnificently wrought pictures, these most pious images, we were connected with the most universal emotions, with humanity itself.  It was a triumphant occasion and a worthy contribution to the BA’s series.’

Rogier van der Weyden, The Crucifixion, c. 1457-64, oil on panel, 323.5 x 192 cm, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial, Madrid.

Rogier van der Weyden, Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John, c. 1457-64, oil on panel, 323.5 x 192 cm, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial, Madrid.

Elizabeth Rabineau (Development Director)


March Mostra 2016/ Meet the artists… Anne Ryan

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 one week to go, we went to see Anne Ryan in her studio to find out more about her and her work.

Anne Ryan (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

“I’m interested in the marginal, the minor, that’s where there might be something still to say or leave unsaid in painting.”


Anne Ryan’s work is concerned with how narrative in painting can open windows onto new worlds where uncertainty and ambiguity come into play. She has used images from Italian cinema and cinematography in the past, which often reference painting to such an extent that by using them as sources for new work she extends the loop between film and painting.  Furthermore, each day she moves through the landscapes of the city finding images, drawing Rome like an artist on a modern-day grand tour.  She edits and combines these findings to make watercolours, drawings and simple objects which are arranged in installations that explore new sets of narratives.

How do you start the process of making your work?

I’ve been walking around Rome every day, exploring the place and making drawings as I go. I wanted to get out and about and see the city, the everyday things in the streets and places like the Borghese Gardens. Some images come from these walks and some come from things like Etruscan pottery in the museums, some from Italian cinema as well.

I go backwards and forwards with my work, working on a lot of things at once so I can throw ideas around. I also wanted to do something new, because I’m only here for three months. I wanted to do something totally different to what I do at home. I’m a big oil painter and I didn’t want to do that here, I wanted to do something very different.

Is your working with watercolours new, or is it something you’re revisiting?

I have worked with watercolours before, but not much. I like it because it is such a fluid process and I can take it out and draw outside and make things quickly and easily. I’ve been doing loads of experiments with what I can do with it and where that might lead me.

From looking at your huge collection of work you seem to be interested in body shapes.

Most of the work relates to groups of figures in various situations. I think this comes from my interest in cinema – Italian cinema was my original reference. But I am also interested in the everyday, the normal, the things people usually miss. I’m not into beauty at all, maybe some of them become beautiful in the end, but it’s not about that. I’ve been exploring the movement in the paintings like something is about to change, like they are on the edge of becoming something else. I’ve ended up with is this big 3D drawing sculpture. There’s a very abstract quality to it, I’m going to lay it out like it’s a theatre, with sets almost, and groupings. It’s been fun making that.

And is that inspired/taken from Rome?

It’s been inspired by my walks around Rome, the museums, films, the cover of a book I’m reading about Naples, there’s a character from that. They’re not exact copies, I change them because I translate it, it all gets reconfigured from my memory in a sense, and so they change. These characters are meeting on that platform but they are all from different places.

And how does Italian cinema fit into your work?

It’s more like a mood or something that’s happening and I love to relate it to the real world. I like some of those films that seem to have no beginning and no end, it’s just like the middle runs on and on. To me that refers in a sense to the real world. I don’t want to take images directly from the movies, it could be more of an idea of what is happening, sometimes it could be a set of images that come from several different movies and then I’ll load them up into sharing the same space.

To me it is about the world I inhabit, not just about imagery from cinema and found sources. It’s almost like I suspend my thoughts and ideas I have about things and it becomes very real in a new way. In making the work I have been trying to break down the gap between drawing and painting, to make that space closer. In a sense, cinematography comes in there because I see it almost like drawing.

Cinema is great when narrative starts to break down and becomes a bit more abstract and then the story starts revealing itself slowly, it’s like when they’re leaving the screen and are no longer there but the story starts revealing itself and just flows. That’s the kind of narrative I’m interested in.

In London you said you work mostly with oil. Is your work with watercolour going to be something you take back with you?

I have so many ideas I need to go back with, so many ideas! I just need to stop myself now because I’ve started doing little things, and I only have three months here so I am going back with so many plans! I want to work on the floor with huge pieces of canvas and start pouring the paint and drawing with it. But there are common things too, between my work here and my work at home, drawing is always at the core of it.

Anne’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

Meet the artists…Daniele Genadry

D Genadry “Afterimage (Towards Riyaq)”, 2012, acrylic and oil paint on wood panel, 45 x 60 cm (each)

D Genadry “Afterimage (Towards Riyaq)”, 2012, acrylic and oil paint on wood panel, 45 x 60 cm (each)

Daniele Genadry (Abbey Scholar in Painting, October 2013-June 2014) lives and works in Beirut and New York City. Recent exhibitions include “After Hours”, Kunsthalle Galapagos, New York City; “Journeys”, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut; “2nd AIM Biennial”, Bronx Museum, New York City (2013); “Blindspot”, Agial Gallery, Beirut; “Sightlines”, Coop Gallery, Nashville, TN (2012).

Daniele Genadry’s work considers the construction of visual experience through memory, movement and migration. She uses various media to create and translate images of the landscape and examines how this mediation alters our perception of time and space. Multiple viewpoints, decentralized images, and shifting frames within the work address the distance necessary to merge a documented moment with the narrative of passing geographies.


Danièle Genadry (Abbey Scholar in Painting, ottobre 2013-giugno 2014) vive e lavora a Beirut e New York City. Le sue mostre recenti includono “After Hours”, Kunsthalle Galapagos, New York City; “Journeys”, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut; “2nd AIM Biennial”, Bronx Museum, New York City (2013); “Blindspot”, Agial Gallery, Beirut; “Sightlines”, Coop Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee (2012).

Il lavoro di Danièle Genadry riguarda la costruzione dell’esperienza visiva attraverso la memoria, il movimento e la migrazione. Ella usa vari media per creare e tradurre immagini del paesaggio e esamina come questa mediazione alteri la nostra percezione di tempo e spazio. Punti di vista multipli, immagini decentrate, e cornici che slittano all’interno dell’opera affrontano la distanza che è necessaria a fondere un momento documentato con la narrazione di geografie in transito.

Friday 13th Invitation

BSR Fine Arts exhibition “Friday 13th”. Opening Friday 13 December 2013 18.30-21.30. Exhibition runs Monday-Saturday 16.30-19.00 until 21 December. Further details here.

Meet the artists…Archie Franks

A Franks, “Baroque Bin”, 2013, oil on board, 39 x 29 cm

A Franks, “Baroque Bin”, 2013, oil on board, 39 x 29 cm

Archie Franks (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting, October 2013-September 2014) lives and works in London.  He studied at City and Guilds of London Art School (2006-2009) and the Royal Academy Schools (2009-2012) in London. Recent exhibitions include “Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2013”, Spike Island, Bristol, touring to the ICA, London, 2013-14; “Hold the Fort!”, FORT, London, 2013; “Original Copy 3”, Peles Empire, Cluj, Romania, 2012; “Original Copy 2”, Peles Empire, London, 2012.

Archie Franks’ paintings combine mundane domestic realities with the grandeur of art history. They are an attempt to juxtapose the sublime and the paltry, or even to reconcile the everyday with the magnificent. Motifs of animals and food are a constant, along with elements taken from the baroque and rococo periods.  They are made using juicy, thick, decadent paint.


Archie Franks ( Sainsbury Scholar in Painting, ottobre 2013-settembre 2014 ) vive e lavora a Londra. Ha studiato alla City and Guilds of London Art School (2006-09) e alle Royal Academy Schools (2009-12) a Londra. Le su mostre recenti includono “Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2013”, Spike Island, Bristol, e ICA, Londra, 2013-14; “Hold the Fort!”, FORT, Londra, 2013; “Original Copy 3”, Peles Empire, Cluj, Romania, 2012; “Original Copy 2”, Peles Empire, Londra, 2012.

I dipinti di Archie Franks combinano le realtà di tutti i giorni con la grandezza della storia dell’arte. Sono un tentativo di giustapporre il sublime e il meschino, o perfino di conciliare quotidianità e magnificenza. I motivi di animali e cibo sono costanti, insieme con elementi tratti da barocco e rococò. Essi sono realizzati con una succosa, spessa, decadente pittura.

Friday 13th Invitation

BSR Fine Arts exhibition “Friday 13th”. Opening Friday 13 December 2013 18.30-21.30. Exhibition runs Monday-Saturday 16.30-19.00 until 21 December. Further details here.

Meet the artists…Marius von Brasch

M von Brasch "Postcards from San Luigi" (5 Paintings),  2013, oil on canvas, 35 x 35 cm

M von Brasch “Postcards from San Luigi” (5 Paintings), 2013, oil on canvas, 35 x 35 cm

Marius von Brasch (Abbey Fellow in Painting, October-December 2013) completed a practice-based PhD in 2012. He explored the notion of ‘aura’ through the lens of materialist metaphysics (especially Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of ‘Becoming’), in painting expanding to digital media. Recent exhibitions include “Distance however near it may be” (solo), Winchester Gallery, Winchester, 2012; and “Feint” (group), Rag Factory, London, 2011.

For the Rome fellowship, Marius von Brasch applies his practice – juxtaposing the ‘authentic’/handmade with the ‘dispersed’/digital – to the notion of ‘vocation’. Starting from Caravaggio’s “La vocazione di san Matteo” as source image, the project questions how vocation can be thought about and visualized without depending on a transcendent source. Outcomes are drawings, paintings and a video.


Marius von Brasch (Abbey Fellow in Painting, ottobre-dicembre 2013) ha completato nel 2012 un PhD ‘practice-based’. Ha esplorato il concetto di ‘aura’ attraverso la lente della metafisica materialista (soprattutto la filosofia del ‘Divenire’ di Gilles Deleuze), espandendo il lavoro dalla pittura espansione ai media digitali. Le sue mostre recenti includono “Distance however near it may be” (personale), Winchester Gallery, Winchester, 2012, e “Feint” (collettiva), Rag Factory, Londra, 2011.

Nella sua residenza romana, Marius von Brasch applica la sua pratica – giustapponendo lo ‘autentico’/fatto a mano al ‘disperso’/ digitale – alla nozione di ‘vocazione’. Partendo dalla “Vocazione di San Matteo” di Caravaggio come immagine sorgente, il progetto pone in questione come la vocazione possa essere pensata e visualizzata senza dipendere da una fonte trascendente. I risultati sono disegni, dipinti e un video.

Friday 13th Invitation

BSR Fine Arts exhibition “Friday 13th”. Opening Friday 13 December 2013 18.30-21.30. Exhibition runs Monday-Saturday 16.30-19.00 until 21 December. Further details here.

“Friday 13th”

Friday 13th Invitation

Contemporary Art & Architecture Exhibition at the BSR. Opening Friday 13 December 2013 18.30-21.30. Exhibition runs Monday-Saturday 16.30-19.00 until 21 December. Further details here.

Proudly introducing the Fine Arts award-holders exhibiting at our December exhibition

Friday 13th

Johann Arens, Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art

Marius von Brasch, Abbey Fellow in Painting

Julia Davis, Australia Council Resident

Archie Franks, Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture

Daniele Genadry, Abbey Scholar in Painting

Ann-Marie James, Derek Hill Foundation Scholar

Edward Simpson, Rome Prize-winner in Architecture