Studio 4

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studio 4

The blogging has slowed down but the painting has been happening. I have less than one month left, well less really because we have Xmas and our group exhibition, the mostra, which starts on Dec 12th. Then I need to ship my work back to the UK and on the 29th I fly back.  I am already aware that this experience has been a pivotal one. It is hard to even begin to catalogue all the places I have visited and that have etched a lasting memory, that will form a sort of personal reference library. So many images, and also of the conversations in and around the images.

My days have been varied. We have had heavy rain and loud thunderstorms which have encouraged days in the studio. Where I have worked on small and medium and large paintings, on paper and on boards and on canvas. For the mostra  a few words are written for the brochure –

Gill Ord’s experience in Rome began by working on site, in underground spaces. These places were chosen for their particular qualities and depth of history. In the studio the paintings she has made are instinctive, but also intentionally about the experience of being in these ancient and layered locations.

The above is the plain truth, but actually it is not just the places I worked in that are in my head as I work, it is also the Borromini churches and The Pantheon and the Caravaggio’s. The Domus Aurea, the Bernini’s and the Galleria Borghese. EUR, The Forums, columns, temples and just walking the streets. I could of course go and on. The thing is that here rather than looking and photographing and then at some point being in the studio, the transition is a walk away, along Via Ripetta, through Piazza del Popolo (via the church of S. Maria) across the Borghese gardens. The biggest difference between a holiday and a fellowship is the chance to return again and again to the same places and always see more.

Gill OrdStudio 4

Ostia Antica II

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Mythreum Ostia

Luckily I was with Em and Dan, or I may have been locked in! As I didn’t hear the warden – going round with a whistle, so it was a quick finish and dash to the gates, when they called me.

Gill OrdOstia Antica II

Ostia Antica

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Mythreum Ostia Antica

Just a short train ride outside Rome is the ancient town of Ostia Antica, dating back to the 4th Century BC. The old port of Rome, the town was buried in silt as the river changed its path. Digs have gone on since the 1950 – 1970’s but many discoveries are quite recent. Somehow this ongoing discovery gives these ancient places an aliveness.

It is very intact, like Pompeii but here many houses have second or third floors. It is so particular, you walk through streets, shops, warehouses, seeing baths, mosaics and temples. I was feeling quite at a loss as to how I could go about making paintings – which was my intention. But the really strange Mithraeum was the place I worked in, found by Emily and Dan, who I came with. They left me in this place of pagan worship and it was a weird rather creepy place, but I managed two paintings, one facing in and one facing out.

Gill OrdOstia Antica

The lower Basilica

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tomb light 72

These paintings – done underground and using whatever found light there is, are now an interesting group to think about back in the studio. My plan was always to divide my time between making on site and working in my BSR studio, which has great even light. Somehow the subject of each of the paintings shifts around, this one it is the shadow, in others a particular bit of stone or hole, but in each the light or lack of it, is significant.


Gill OrdThe lower Basilica


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corner S Nicola

Tufa blocks are used as building materials in many of the underground spaces I have visited. Made from compressed volcanic ash and mined close to Rome, they are dense with history and texture. For me they hold a whole world of fascination.

Later today I will go to the underground space of the Basilica S. Lorenze in Lucina, only open the first Sat of each month at 5.00 pm. So not a painting opportunity, but I may be able to work on getting special permission and go back. Actually getting permission to paint is not possible, we describe it as drawing! And I have made a very discreet painting kit, it fits into a fisherman’s tackle box. Someone commented it could be my lunch box….well I do like my food. So once underground if it seems I will be undisturbed – out come the paints.

Gill OrdTufa

Cosma E Damiano

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tomb 1 copy

A change of location, this is under the Basilica Dei Santi Cosma E Damiano, situated right in the centre of ancient Rome. The Franciscan Monk who takes care of the church and cloister gave me a guided tour and gave me access to the otherwise closed lower basilica.

Besides all this underground painting, I have also been visiting lots of above ground places, lots of churches but also other academies. Most recently the American, where a few of us ( artists from BSR ) had lunch and visited studios, staying on for an inspiring talk by Yves-Alain Bois on Elsworth Kelly’s 65 -year long dialogue with Architecture. And it was  great to re meet up with Amy Sillman, a New York painter who I met over twenty years ago, also in Rome on a fellowship….plans to meet up and do more catching up.

Gill OrdCosma E Damiano

Blue skies

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At Nicola 1st day

Yes the sky is very blue but underground the light is either from randomly placed lights or small holes where daylight finds it way through, usually at pavement level. So I know it is strange to seek out these dark, cool and still spaces. I have been back three times now to the same space and it strangely is feeling sort of familiar and welcoming.

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Getting painting

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72 jpeg collumn 2 holes

Back to S. Nicola in Carcere to paint under the temples, again I was happy that a chirpy Buon giorno got me easy access to this seriously thought provoking space. Also right now it is very hot and very humid so actually being in a cool and calm space is rather nice. While up above ( I can hear the traffic, and bits of light get through) all is beeping horns and herds of tourists. I don’t remember Rome being so stuffed full of people, of course escape is never too far from the main attractions.

Gill OrdGetting painting

Ancient Temples

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This is underneath the church of S. Nicola in Carcere, dating back to 250B.C these are very old stones. You can see the pillars of 3 temples that have been on this spot. I get permission to spend a few hours down in this space yesterday and made my first 2 underground paintings, which are just a starting point. For me the purpose is to really look and take it all in. Only three other people came down and weirdly I didn’t feel spooked being on my own, sort of felt at home quite quickly, and sort of surprised no one came to check what I was actually doing.

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Roman grain stores

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image Roman hole

So I have to admit I was very happy to find eight Roman holes, from the time of Augustus, probably grain stores. I could get close and the ticket guy seemed to be cool with me painting them…..well that is if he had any idea what my mime was all about. Me down in the crypt with paint, gesture of painting.

I guess I give it ago, can just be driven out by the nuns of Santa Cecilia.

Gill OrdRoman grain stores