by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Throughout the eighteenth century the influence of Giovanni Battista Piranesi was inescapable. His ruins infected the imagination of the chattering classes across Europe and were a perfect visual match for the Gothic Romances that were so popular at the time. Ruins is a selection of highlights from his monumental work of 1776, the Vedute di Roma. Piranesi was an opportunist, he had created what amounted in his eyes to little more than a knick-knack for the legions of tourists passing through the Eternal City on the Grand Tour and he did not see the production of these souvenirs as a suitable crowning glory for his life. Pirenasi’s great ambition was to be an architect (something he had trained to do) and although he never designed a building his architectural influence has been huge, most visibly through the work of John Soane.
The image of the ruin was especially popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and it is an image that remains resonant today. The ruin in the modern world more often than not carries the scars of war. They are objects that have been subjected to violence and so all the twisted girders and shattered concrete reinforce man’s sense of power. Piranesi’s ruins are quieter than this. They have the calm of the graveyard. These buildings have collapsed not because of a moment of violence but because of the incessant workings of time. Piranesi used the tourist trade to illustrate great cycles of mans existence. The ascent and decline of great empires leave behind them only ruins, a commonplace truth, but one worth repeating.
Ruins the curatorial role of the artist Hugo Worthy becomes the art work,
created not so much by the splish-splosh of the paint brush, or the grinding
of power tools, but by selecting, choosing, discerning, and in the end
consolidating that through politicking. He says ‘I have made a simulacrum
of a conservative museum exhibition but within the context of a contemporary
In association with Photo Month over 100 artists have responded to the above theme by submitting souvenir snapshots, which will be on sale to raise money for future Transition projects.