John Riddy

Rome (Federico Fellini)


Not on display

John Riddy born 1959
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 375 × 475 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 [Borghese] 1999 [Tate P13883]). 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 (Federico Fellini) 1999 depicts the small square dedicated to the famous Italian film director in the centre of Rome. The square is located next to the Muro Torto (crooked wall), an ancient Roman supporting wall built behind the Pincian hill which cuts through the Villa Borghese and runs all the way from Via Veneto to the Piazza del Popolo. The ancient Roman wall dates to the end of the Republican era (509 BC to 27 BC) and supports the sloping hillside that once housed many patrician mansions. The wall was later included in the monumental Aurelian Wall complex which dominates the brightly lit background of Riddy’s image. On the left-hand side of the composition stands the gate of the Porta Pinciana, whose name derives from the gens Pincia who owned the eponymous hill. The gate was built under the emperor Honorius in the early fifth century. The foreground of Riddy’s photograph is in shadow and dominated by the black trunk and leafless branches of a tree. A parked moped occupies the right-hand corner of the shot.

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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