Daily I would walk to Piazza Rotunda and beyond, just to be in Rome, early before the crowds; to watch the road sweepers and shop keepers setting up, to see the light changing over the city.
Gradually those walks, and those films wove themselves into my dreams and my drawings.
— Oona Grimes
Hail the new Etruscan #1, Oona Grimes’ fourth solo exhibition at Danielle Arnaud, presents a new body of work developed during her recent residency at the British School in Rome, where she was the Bridget Riley Fellow 2018. The work is influenced by Grimes’ long held fascination with Italian cinema, from Italian Neorealism to late Fellini films, as well as the ‘sea of visual treats’ she experienced in Rome.
The exhibition sees Grimes make a significant shift in her practice, to embrace film- making for the first time. In her ‘iPhone rushes’ the artist re-enacts scenes from familiar films, such as Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. (1952), when the protagonist is reduced to begging in front of the Pantheon. Using 16mm film cut with iPhone clips, Grimes makes visible the language of film—both the learning and losing of it—revelling in the omissions, the discontinuity, the patches and the bad repairs. These low-tech re-enactments are a way for Grimes to ‘own the discourse’. ‘I wasn’t acting,’ she says, ‘I was drawing the moment. I saw them as studies, and just cut them together as if watching behind the scenes preparation.’
The films are complemented by two new series of drawings—le comparse (2018), a series of A4 coloured pencil drawings of extras from Italian films and ragazze e raggazzi romani (2018). The latter celebrate the flatness of frescoes and the blackness of analogue film. Grimes describes them as ‘a discourse between a Porta Portese tea towel and the handkerchief of Saint Veronica. Fragments of Etruscan porn dance with pixelated vespas and the maid from [Pasolini’s 1968 film] Teorema.’
Oona Grimes is a born & bred London scribbler and draw-er — a devout flattist with a love of pattern & all things paper & bookish from Japanese woodcuts and Windsor McKay to graphic signage & packaging; tartans stolen from a Lorenzetti blanket or cartoon detail thieved from Roman wall paintings.
“You’re lured in spite of yourself, in spite of not knowing what the shady characters and disjointed hieroglyphics represent… Isn’t this what Grimes is seeking – a way to notate a reality that can’t be determined or resolved through narrative or catharsis?” Cherry Smyth
My drawings are a celebration of the absurd, a transformation of ordinary objects & a simmering consommé of fact & fiction, an ongoing series of parallel worlds. They are an investigation into language, beginnings & ends of it, learning & losing it, neurological case studies, Alzheimer’s, slippage & mis-memory.
“Now tanglehead has nothing to say to brickface. Characters once locked in the personalities of hierarchical position must change as the power of speech is lost” Cherry Smyth
Grimes is currently a Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art London & The Ruskin School of Art Oxford University.
Hail the new Etruscan #1 is the first of three solo exhibitions by Oona Grimes in 2019. It will be followed by Hail the new Etruscan #2 – screenings of 4 of Grimes’ films – will show at Matt’s Gallery, 19-27 January, and Hail the new Etruscan #3 at The Bower (summer 2019 ]