An interview with Margaux Ogden, Abbey Fellow in Painting, in which she speaks about the work she has produced during her residency at the BSR from September–December 2021.
1. Historically BSR artists have made pilgrimages to see Piero’s work. Can you talk a little about the impact of seeing his work ‘in the flesh’ ?
The Piero della Francesca trail was an amazing experience during my time here at the British School at Rome. I’ve looked at his paintings and frescoes in books for many years, and seeing them in person and in the landscape where they were painted and where he lived was eye-opening. We drove from small villages to walled medieval towns, and throughout the surrounding countryside, which provided context for the work that came out of it. Piero had his own visual language and seeing the paintings in person allowed me to really understand the way he treats space, color and shape in each painting. They are mysterious and compositionally complex, and it was a pleasure to be able to focus on only his work for a few days. Having Piero as the focal point for an art pilgrimage rather than a museum or group of artists enabled a much more intimate and comprehensive looking experience, changing the way I understand and look at his work.
2. Your abstract paintings appear as a tangle of lines, forms, and colour fields. Your fluid free-form gestures meld with more precise geometric shapes. What space does Rome occupy in them?
I paint directly on an unprimed surface, allowing the substrate to become as much a part of the composition as the paint itself. I’ve spent my time in Italy looking at mosaics, ruins, and ancient, medieval, and renaissance frescoes, taking hints from the palettes and ongoing transformation of form and image here. In the BSR studio, I created a series of iterative paintings. Though nothing is fully planned when I start, the structure of each painting informs that of the next. Within the composition, I’m interested in imbalance, speed of gesture, repetition, in flat and deep spaces existing simultaneously, and color relationships. As I’m working, certain qualities, forms, and relationships reappear in subsequent paintings. However, because of the delicate relationship between paint and substrate, for every painting that survives, several are abandoned. The resulting body of work contains a fragmentary legacy not unlike my Roman source material.