John Riddy

Rome (Borghese)


Not on display

John Riddy born 1959
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 375 × 480 mm
Presented 2014


This is one of two black and white photographs in Tate’s collection from John Riddy’s series Rome 1999 (see also Rome [Federico Fellini] 1999 [Tate P13882]). The series was first exhibited at Lawrence Markey Gallery, New York in 1999 and exists in an edition of five plus one artist’s proof. Well-known landmarks of Italy’s capital city feature in the series just as much as ordinary spaces, constructing an image of a place that, as the artist recalled, ‘remains unfamiliar … hidden from me, a world that is new to me’ (quoted in Lawrence Markey Gallery 1999, p.3).

Rome (Borghese) 1999 depicts a view of the gardens surrounding the Borghese Gallery, an art gallery housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. The Villa was built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio (1560–1613), developing sketches by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1567–1623), who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, on the outskirts of Rome. Initially conceived as an integral part of the villa, the gardens as they are nowadays were made in the early nineteenth century and are known as the Villa Borghese Gardens. Riddy’s photograph focuses on the tall pine trees that populate the gardens, whose slender, vertical trunks are counterpointed by the park bench and hedge running horizontally across the foreground of the composition. The absence of people is further emphasised by the use of a rich grey scale and strong contrasts of light and shade that add to the stillness of the composition.

The black and white images of the Rome series have a weight of texture and history that characterises much of Riddy’s work, as seen also in his colour photographs of views of London in the series Low Relief 2009 (Tate P79839P79844) and the later black and white series Palermo 2011–13 (see Tate P20426P20428 and P81175P81179). These images exemplify Riddy’s considered exploration of the ambience and atmosphere of specific places. His photographs are filled with historical moments and references, from Renaissance painting and sculpture, to modernist and postmodernist architecture. His subject matter is typically broad, ranging from the humble domestic interior to images which may appear emblematic of a particular time and place, generally absent of human activity or intervention.

Further reading
John Riddy. Rome, exhibition catalogue, Lawrence Markey Gallery, New York 1999.
John Riddy, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London 2000.

Carmen Juliá
April 2014

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