«The Eternal City»
Ancient Rome was a civilisation that had many great achievements and feats of artistic and cultural significance.
It’s dark underbelly was the suffering of millions of slaves, the debauched lifestyle of its rulers and its bloated army that slowly sapped the empire of all its strength.
Following in the traditions of the fresco painters, the artist paints her idea of Rome on a crackled, weatherbeaten surface. The canvas is dominated by a mask-like single face. Gold and silver tones can be glimpsed through the dusty surface, like an unearthed artefact covered by dust and nestling among the overgrown weeds. The face has an expression of abject despair.
When viewed in conjunction with the painting of Venice, Rome’s is a more despairing tale. The canvas is clouded with muddy swirls, like the dust storms created by thousands of victorious Roman troops as they marched into the megalopolis to find out their lands had been usurped by richer neighbours. Or the stampeding hordes of barbarians who eventually overwhelmed and destroyed the empire.
For the artist, the grandeur of Rome was a myth and mask. She describes it as an artificial civilisation. Underneath the superficial layer of glossy artifice, one can glimpse a background of broken metal chains – a reference to the millions who led fettered lives, their loss of freedom and Rome’s decline.
The constant invasions of barbarian armies leaves their imprint on the face of Rome. The eyes within the face are just coins. It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and this was a culture which was too preoccupied with matters of the flesh.
This bleak and despairing gaze is in harsh contrast to the exquisitely detailed jewellery which adorns the face. Even though misery and poverty were rampant, Rome still created enduring masterpieces of art and architecture. This paradox – the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness -- is what the artist explores through these diverse vignettes. She paints the most famous building of ancient Rome, the Coliseum, at the head. An ancient Roman priest offers a sacrifice to the Gods, behind the Roman sign SPQR – an intersection of religion and politics.
The decorative details – evidences of artistic achievements – are all but forgotten in the brutal excesses of those who ruled Rome.