roman sKandals

Tess Charnley


Oona Grimes’ roman sKandals is one of eleven works in her ragazze e ragazzi Romani series, ‘a giant storyboard’ of stencil drawings referencing Italian neorealist cinema, born out of Grimes’ Bridget Riley Fellowship at the British School of Rome last year. roman sKandals exists in a space of dreamlike hyper-femininity. The work is spare but it is the richness of Grimes’ gestures, drawn, cut, spray-painted and collaged, that plays with the viewer’s imagination. All we need is the fluid line cutting from ear to lip, a jawline strong and smooth, for us to fill in the flesh. Anouk Aimee’s character Madalena from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is traced here and we see her caught in Grimes’ still, the giveaway of her movement is a reverberation of lines haloing the crests of her hair.

Grimes’ fine white lines against the paper’s chalky black underpin the drawing and imbibe us with the nostalgia that comes with watching and re-watching black and white films. But it is the fluorescence of Madalena’s eyebrows and the gradient of pink to red oozing out of the cigarette holder that nods to the contemporary relevance of Italian cinema. We are reminded that it is films like La Dolce Vita, with their charming amalgamation of sensuousness, wit and furore, that comprise the foundations of the twenty-first century neon that has seeped into the most classical of cities.

Toying with the idea of patchwork here, the work is suspended between the fluid and trancelike and the staccato interjections of a surprising intruder into an otherwise yawning dream. Patches of pink and purple flatten the fabric that is seemingly about to be emblazoned by a crinkled cigarette; a square of hair extends beyond the frame; a patch bridges the contrast between the nose’s fill and the cheek’s negative space. roman sKandals becomes a tapestry of sorts, riffing off the patched editing in these post-war Italian films. The work, although flat, is tetris-like and we navigate its surreal game, rotating Grimes’ references to rebuild the drawing in our own interpretation.