A well needed update on Rome, and on my opinions on the Italian capital. At first, I actually did not enjoy Rome; it was a beautiful city, and the all consuming feeling of Death and Religious power that exuded from every corner of the street like a thick, dense fog, was fascinating to behold. However, there was no substance; it felt that the city was built on the ruins of it’s past, and not pushed any further than this; not evolved much past these ruins, and this actually made me feel a great disappointment at the state of this city. I felt disappointed a lot of the time for the first two days I was there; only when I began to enjoy the form, somewhere which I actually would like to go to a great number of times more; did I feel my fondness for the city grow.
Me and Sarah actually found the Colosseum on the first day, purely through coincidence. We began to walk around the streets of Rome, and upon turning a corner, peered down a street to see the Forum in the distance; as we came closer, the silhouette of the Colosseum sprung out to our left; and so, we chose to visit there and then. The place was beautiful, the stone so old, so historic; holding thousands of ears of memories and experiences, it echoed this grandeur that was only slightly subdued by the sheer amount of people taking selfies against the stone. This place was sacred, spiritual even; and day after day, people only utilise it as a means of garnering attention on some form of social media website. It also struck me as strange that they would need to take a picture of themselves with the object they were photographing, as if they needed to prove they were there, that they actually have visited this place. Strange, as it was, I did not let it deter me from gazing at the artefacts held within, and enjoying their presence. The exhibits of bones were the first things to garner my interest, as they seemed to hold a history all their own. The top half of a horse’s skull; decaying and fragile, held a soft umber glow, as if dyed by the bloodshed that it most likely was involved in all of those years ago. What was this horse’s role in the Colosseum? and how did he die? the lower jaw of a Boar’s skull was also incredibly interesting to me, but this did not hold the same power that the Horse’s did, which stared right back at me as I stared at it; willing to unfurl it’s secrets to me, but only If I could find and discover them for myself.
Another statue which interested me was this one; which seemed to appreciate the power and grace of a bird in flight; a concept I have been investigating throughout my project, and remarked on how in Roman times, there was a vastly different ecosystem to what there is today. The plaque below the statue told me of an interesting animal inhabitant of the ancient ruins, Ancient Raptors; large birds of prey such as vultures and greater Buzzards, lived amongst the forum and the Roman people, and would await the slaughter of the Coliseum’s games. When those who had fallen hit the ground, the birds would descend down upon the bloodied sands, snatching up any meat and bone they could get their hands on. This brutality, juxtaposed with the grace and beauty of the flight of the animals, is an interesting contrast. Do I hope to mimic this within my own work? it certainly has a place in my blood paintings and sacrifices, but does it hold any sway in any of my other works? there is a subdued violence in my work, a seemingly invisible pain. What is it about the birds that interests me so much?
Another place that we visited within the first two days was a building that I walked past immediately on the first day, the building was plain, but the opening of the doors suggested some form of religious building. We entered, and I was blown away; The architecture of the room, the way that everything seemed to be coated in gold, not only did it fascinated, but it also began to infuriate. I have many problems with an organisation that preaches to aid the poor, and then holds a vast wealth of gold within it’s religious houses. However, I will not deny the beauty of the buildings; and also, I began to notice that there was a great deal of ‘rays of heavenly light’ sculpted into the vast quantities of gold throughout Rome, from wall carvings to simple crosses and altar ornaments, the ‘heavenly rays’ were consistent within religious places. I soon came to see these sculptures as a means of perceiving where belief in god overcomes his actual presence. Where light falls through the windows, I felt a presence, but in places where these rays are situated, I do not feel like God is present, as if they have made artificial heavenly light.
This aspect of ‘Heavenly Light’ is everywhere in Rome, many places depend on it for light within the churches throughout the days, but it is no more present than at the Pantheon. The Pantheon is quite possibly my favourite place in the entirety of Rome, being from an ancient time, and a place of worship dependent purely on the sun, it speaks to me deep down in my soul. I feel an intense affinity to this place, and was fascinated by how they thought to create a space like this; one that allows the worshippers within to view the very beings they worship, high up in the heavens. We also visited the pantheon at a later time, during the stormy night, and whilst waiting for the heavens to open and see the column of rain that would fall through the hole in the roof, we instead saw a more peculiar sight; as the thunder clapped, we witnessed forks of lightning split the sky above the hole, this display of nature’s power, of which our ancestors would surely have thought was the power of a God, filled me with wonder and amazement.
Another sight that helped me understand the importance of the Pantheon, was one I only managed to notice because I took a moment to turn and observe the monument before we left. The obelisk outside the pantheon, adorned with a minature caricature of the Sun atop it, showcased the true meaning of the Pantheon; Sun worship. This same sun worship that has been inherent in our race for thousands of years, the same one that has shaped our gods and religions, and the same one that still manages to entrance me now, in my contemporary setting. The sun is the giver to all of life, it provides food and sustenance for all forms of life on this planet, and therefore is the closest physical representation of an ‘all providing father’ we actually have.
We also visited a Gothic church, one of the few in Italy, and one that was built upon the ruins of another, ancient religious temple, one on which the vast majority of Catholic rituals are based on; that of Midas, that of the Bull. It is interesting to think that the bull was held in such a high esteem, but also that Catholicism was not original in it’s rituals (although this is not surprising, considering it’s hijacking of the pagan winter festival for Christmas). The church was dimly light, and the vast majority of it’s colours were washed out and dark, giving a very heavy, powerful atmosphere to the building, perfect for one that is intended to make you feel as small and as humble as it can. This place was beautiful, I could not hold back the amount of respect and admiration I had for the architects of this place. I also felt the presence of God here, as it seemed to be lit only by a few lights, and the light that spilled in from the windows; which was heavily subdued by the many stained glass designs embedded within them.
I also found a booklet in a side room that depicted the face of a nun, or some form of holy woman, in what appeared to be a religious trance. Interestingly, she seemed to be in some form of pain, or some form of ecstasy, mental states most often depicted in trances throughout cultures all over the world, not just in christianity, but also in Voodoo practices. States of transcendence, and the link between heaven and earth…they seem to reflect a link between the physical life and death of a person, albeit on a spiritual level, as well as the passing from one to another. How interesting it is to explore such concepts.
Light and Darkness, Life and Death, what are the connections between these two age-old concepts? can one exist without the other? or are they both so intrinsically linked, that if one were to vanish, the other would cease to exist at the same time? Like matter and anti matter, nothing and something, yin and yang.