A Roman Anthology

Sheila Ayearst, Concrete Example: Cubes, 2020, acrylic and oil on canvas, 86 x 122 cm

A Roman Anthology

gathered together by
Janice Gurney

consisting of contributions by
George Amabile, Sheila Ayearst, Martin Bennett, Roo Borson, Pierre Dorion, Janice Gurney, Jamelie Hassan, Andy Patton

June 16 ‚Äď July 16, 2022
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 16, from 5-7pm
Birch Contemporary, Toronto

In Rome, (Pasolini‚Äôs ‚Äústupendous, miserable city‚ÄĚ), there is a multitude of noises at the door. Here the living move with the dead in a compression of space and time: fragments of the funerary inscription of Tacitus, lemon gelato, Michelangelo‚Äôs Chapel in the Baths of Diocletian, the location of Aldo Moro‚Äôs body, the Mithraic Temple in San Clemente, white roses left for Julius Caesar at his cremation site in the Forum, 1920s public housing in Testaccio, artichokes, storm clouds over the Baths of Caracalla, memorial bricks (Stolpersteine) for victims of Auschwitz, swallows over the Tiber, the Etruscan tomb at the Villa Giulia, orange trees, acanthus, the House of Augustus, my mother‚Äôs ashes in the Protestant Cemetery…

This exhibition began with my book project TRANSITORY with marginalia written by several hands, ten hand-made books that spell out a meditation from Marcus Aurelius, put together with letters photographed from the tombstones in the Protestant Cemetery. I asked new friends who live in Rome and old friends who had visited the cemetery to write or draw in the margins of the books as a way to record their memories, impressions, observations or emotional responses to being there. The book became an annotated guide to a meandering walk through the cemetery.

The exhibition expanded to include five more artists ‚Äď Sheila Ayearst, Martin Bennett, Pierre Dorion, Jamelie Hassan and Andy Patton, and two poets ‚Äď George Amabile and Roo Borson. Each had made works about other places and things in Rome that held special meaning for them: the colours of Roman wall paintings, cats among the graves in the Protestant Cemetery, letters carved on the tombstones of Shelley and Gramsci, fragments of Roman concrete broken away from Roman walls, Keats forever dying in his bedroom near the Spanish Steps. Bookstores and newspapers, Roman crows, a city gate. Echoes of Virgil, Livia‚Äôs garden now ‚Äúsilenced into paint‚ÄĚ, the carved acanthus scroll on the Ara Pacis, everyone arriving at Termini Station.

Birch Contemporary
129 Tecumseth St, Toronto, ON M6J 2H2
416 365-3003
info@birchcontemporary.com