Thursday, 28 April 2011

Isola Sacra

I can't believe how fast the time is going - I have been here for 4 weeks today! The last couple of days have been quiet on the blogging front but pretty industrious otherwise. Thanks to Valerie in the library I have been getting really immersed in the Ashby Archive which consists of a pretty sizeable collection of his photographs as well as the amulets. I'll talk more about this in future posts as today I am off very shortly to the Vatican Museum with the CoR crew.

On Wednesday evening Ellen Westcott (Macrquarie University Gale Scholar) gave the most sensitive and illuminating talk titled 'Measuring sentiment. The tombs and epitaphs of Isola Sacra' contextualising it beautifully with this inscription on the corridor outside our studios here

It was brilliant to go and visit the actual tombs which she described on a trip to Isola Sacra yesterday. Isola Sacra is an ancient Roman burial place very near to Fiumicino Airport

Ellen described this tomb in detail - it was of a Midwife and her husband who was a doctor

You can see the Doctor at work in the terracotta on the left - here is one of his wife at work..

Ellen explained yesterday at the site, that this burial ground was not a grand one for really rich people - I really liked being in a place that was for ordinary working people. The whole experience was quite moving.

I am going to keep this post brief for now and write more later but here is something for today which George forwarded me from our friend Shirley..

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Ashby Amulets

Mal Stone texted last night with some news about Guy Martin, he has been evacuated to Malta - which is good news as not only is he safe but he must be making progress too, as they were waiting until he was well enough to move him.

This week has been relatively quiet so far - largely because of the mouldy weather - wet and chill and I have been very busy both in the library and in the studio. Yesterday was a bit of a red letter day. I had a really lovely meeting with Christopher Smith first thing in the morning, Christopher is the Director here, he was incredibly helpful in giving me some very useful pointers for my research and had obviously spent some time beforehand in thinking about my project area - I find this really impressive especially when I know that he is incredibly busy. Everyone who works here is like that too, Valerie Scott who runs the Library is also really helpful and insightful. Valerie told me yesterday about the Ashby amulets which have been knocking around the BSR not doing very much for about 100 years. She thought I might find them interesting, which is a bit of an understatement! She has very kindly allowed me to photograph them. I made a start yesterday and in the top drawer I found this book (you will need to click on each of the images..)

I was amazed to see what was written on the cutting and when I opened the book , this is what I saw..

It was a bit of a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment..

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Roman Easter

Happy Easter from Rome!
The shops have had Easter displays since I have been here

Including the religious shops, which are extremely well prepared for those occasions when emergency mass is called for

And you can even purchase your own model of the last supper..(I like the tagine)

I found a shop selling chocolate chickens (I wonder which came first?!)

And this strangely animated fish display

Here at the BSR we celebrated Easter in style too. Last night I made a lemon drizzle cake as my contribution, I had lots of help..

And Here's Alice this morning with the special Easter cake left for us for breakfast..

My friend Ellen organised a trip out for Sunday lunch to Hosteria Antica Roma a restaurant inside a tomb on the Appian Way!

It sounds a bit grim but was in fact very wonderful - as was the long walk back home.
It's another holiday here tomorrow but I shall be getting back to work..

Friday, 22 April 2011

Roman Birthday

I didn't post yesterday because of the news of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.

I have been worried for Guy Martin who works with us on the BA (Hons) Press & Editorial Photography course at University College Falmouth. Guy was in Libya and was with them. He was one of the photographers who was seriously injured at the same time. Thankfully Guy is safe in hospital now in Misrata, having undergone surgery and will be flown home as soon as he is well enough. I am thinking of him and his family in Cornwall.

Yesterday was the birthday of Rome - 2762 years old, so I made a cake..

It was carrot

I got a bit carried away after my morning on the Palatine, I spent the morning for the first time with the City of Rome Course.

It is run every spring at the BSR and is led by Robert Coates-Stevens who is the Cary Fellow here. Robert is brilliant (I could listen to him all day) so knowledgable he brings everything to life

Peter Fane-Saunders (expert on the history of architecture, chum and cool kitchen person) did an on-site talk about the Septizonium of Septimus Severus - not easy to say....

and not easy to do (as it doesn't exist now) but I was inspired to recreate an extremely minimal version from carrots...

Hmmm, must've been the T-shirt....

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Trinita dei Monti Convent

Amazing day yesterday!

I went to the Trinita dei Monti Convent which is just at the top of the Spanish Steps. The church was beautiful in itself and actually had a welcoming feel, which quite a lot of the big churches in Rome don't have.

Anyway the convent is famous for it's frescoes. We were shown around by a really lovely nun who spoke very fast french so I couldn't catch her name. The first thing we saw is something I have wanted to see ever since David Spero (Photoworks Fellow 2009) showed me when he was telling us about his time in Rome - an anamorphic fresco of Saint Francis of Paula praying under a tree..It's amazing as it turns into a landscape as you walk down the corridor like this..

The next thing we saw was a catoptric sundial - which is a sundial filling an entire corridor where the sun enters through a small opening and hits some kind of optic and passes over the walls

Apart from being incredibly beautiful I am interested in both these frescoes in relation to my research project, as there does appear to be some kind of magic or illusion happening which I am surprised to find in a holy'd think that they would have painted them out? The sundial has got signs of the zodiac all over the walls..

George sent me a lovely thing about sundials last night after I had told him about my day - it's so beautiful I have to share it..

'You talking about sundials reminded me of this story about Carl Linnaeus (1707-78), the man who classified plants. "At Uppsala he planted a clock garden or 'botanical sundial', marking each hour by clumps of plants that opened only at one particular time of day (according to the strength of the sun). The time could thus be 'read' by the rotating patches of open petals, and even by the release of flower perfumes ( such as tobacco plants in the early evening)." '

There were more things in the convent - a trompe-l'oeil fresco in the old dining hall of 'The Wedding at Canaan' by Pozzo

(please excuse my terrible image - it was so dark - but you get the idea..)

And then the last which was a completely bonkers room but fabulous - known as the 'Parrot Room' it was painted by Clerisseau around 1750 - over the top with rusticness..

Monday, 18 April 2011

How to cook an artichoke!

Yesterday was a productive day!

Having photographed the artichoke I offered it to Alba but she said I should cook it myself. I have not cooked an artichoke before, bit scary..
Alba gave me a wonderful cookery lesson to cook it the Italian way.

First you have to get rid of a lot of the outside leaves especially if they look a bit old (mine had been sitting around the studio for 2 days) then you have to chop off the top bit and then you pare the stalk down a bit and then finally you cut the whole thing in half. Then you put some water in a pan (not too much) plus lots of olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon. Then salt and garlic and we put a little bit of mint in as well. I didn't have pepper but it also needs some black pepper to finish off. Then you boil it for about 15 mins

Then you simmer it until you can put a fork very comfortably through it - it took about 20 mins

Then you eat it - it was delicious!

After that I was well set up to have another go at understanding digital photography...I am an analogue girl...
Anyway, having stressed about the resolution and size of my images for two whole days, I took myself off to the local print shop and asked them to print my file as big as they could go - just to test the resolution. I was quite happy with the result..

Later on I was introduced to an Italian soft drink by Andrew one of the City of Rome students here - he described it as tasting like a mixture of Gin & Tonic (I'm quite partial to a G & T) and Christmas Pudding (which I am not) sounded so intriguing I had to try - it is exactly as he described and was really refreshing! It's called Cinotto I think? And apparently is quite common in Australia...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Artichoke and Architecture

Carciofo - Ha!!!

Good news that I heard over the weekend - there are going to be Italian lessons after all, for us very beginners beginners. My Italian is so completely rubbish, despite trying really hard (I tried ordering a cab phonetically over the phone on Saturday night and we were all just stood in the cold for 20 minutes while it didn't turn up) so I will be very grateful for the lessons - thank you BSR!

Still really cold all weekend - on Friday night there were 10 of us in the kitchen cooking, just trying to keep warm over the cooker, it reminded me of that scene from one of my favourite films, 'Night at the Opera' where loads of people cram into a tiny closet...

I had a cultured couple of days on Friday and Saturday visiting first the Maxxi a really F... O.. piece of architecture - it looks amazing. Among other things, they had a fantastic Rietveld show on which had just opened..

And then I went on Saturday to the Palazzo Barberini, which was completely different...

Wonderful though and I only saw half of it - they shut the Borromini staircase at weekends..

Friday, 15 April 2011

Fictional Space

Last night Catrin Huber gave a great talk about her work. She was an Abbey Fellow in 2008. She is exhibiting here right now - her show is called Hall of Fictional Space: Winter and Summer Residencies. It was lovely to see her again. In fact she is the person who let me in when I arrived very late on 1st April! Here's a couple of views of her show...

Today I am going to continue my hunt for an artichoke. I tried to get one yesterday but they had all gone - I think this is because from today until Sunday it is the Sagra del carciofo romanesco, Ladispoli - and it makes perfect sense to photograph one for the occasion! (I think the worst thing for me will be to actually pronounce the word carciofo in the shop) If I manage it, I will post a picture tomorrow...

Today I am going to start work on my halo. I found it the other day in the same religious shop where I got the giant rosary...

Fab isn't it!

I have got a bit obsessed with halos since I got here - what interests me most is the materiality of them in all the paintings that I have seen - they are so solid somehow.. I found another one which I am going to customise...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The cult of F

Well! Things are hotting up around here (except it's suddenly turned seasonally normal and cold, so socks back on)

Having spent quite a lot of time these last ten days hobnobbing with historians and archaeologists etc., I have been hearing an awful lot about ancient cults, rituals and sites including a very interesting talk last night by Stephen Heyworth about the Roman Calendar and Topography. Stephen has been very kindly feeding me snippets from Ovid's Fasti which mentions Roman superstitions (just what I'm looking for) he has promised me some Horace too - can't wait!

Anyway, it seems, once a Roman always a Roman... (these people can't help themselves) - there are cults even now springing up all over the place. I have discovered one - RIGHT HERE!!

I can't say any more just now but from what I am hearing (I am going to call it The Cult of F) it has it's Head Quarters (...or Temple) upstairs somewhere - I have been told to search for the secret sign on the door, (ancient roman behaviour: I rest my case) more later...

(Sign of cult activity...)

What else happened yesterday? Hmm, well I caught Peter's cold didn't I?! This is what happens when you hang out with cool people in the kitchen (too cool by halves, I'd say..)