The Phantasmagorical Grid

Justin Trendall and the influence of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Exhibition dates: 31 August - 1 December 2005

I need to produce great ideas and I believe that were I given the planning of a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it.

Giovanni Piranesi*

The idea for the exhibition developed from a conversation between Justin Trendall and art curator Sioux Garside on the work of eighteenth century artist Giovanni Piranesi in the University Art Collection.

Justin Trendall, A House for Gerry Lopez and Meaghan Morris, 2005, digital print, artist collection

Justin Trendall is a contemporary artist who uses a combination of screen printing, digital graphics and photography to make his art. Since graduating from SCA in the mid 1980's, he has produced a body of work that explores the themes of cultural identity and the urban landscape. In this exhibition Trendall's new works were inspired by the theories and prints of Piranesi ( 1720 - 1778) and those of French architect Claude Nicholas Ledoux (1736 - 1806).

Trendall is inspired by Piranesi's imagery, especially his preference for ornamentation and his romantic inventions. These include Piranesi's views of architectural ruins of the Roman era such as triumphal archways and impressive buildings such as the View of the Pantheon illustrated left .

The designs of Piranesi and Ledoux are a defining influence on Trendall's research into cultural theory and architectural modernism. He acknowledges their allegorical importance for his work as well as their influence on his visual imagination.

He says,
These pieces come from my 'monument' series. Each piece starts with a collection of names that memorialise an imagined cultural event. I pick out a few names and make a quick sketch of a building. The images I work towards are partly cultural maps, partly architectural apparitions.

As a printmaker, Trendall is intrigued by Piranesi's technical skill as an etcher and his use of velvety tone for expressing texture, atmosphere and fine detail. Trendall's interweaving of image and text parallels the incorporation of text and explanatory engineering diagrams in Piranesi's work.

Venetian born, Piranesi was an architect, polemicist and visionary printmaker. He was immensely influential in his own time through the wide dissemination of his prints to tourists taking the Grand Tour of Europe. He influenced a generation of architects and writers and his celebrated Views of Rome and fantastical Carceri etchings have continued to intrigue collectors in succeeding generations.

The University's Piranesi etchings were restored for the exhibition and were displayed with eleven works borrowed from S h Ervin Gallery and a private collection.

This intriguing exhibition contextualised a fragment of the University's collection through the mind of a contemporary artist. Justin Trendall returned to the SCA to work as a full time lecturer in the Printmedia Studio after a period spent teaching at the Canberra School of Art.

*John Wilton-Ely, 'Utopia or Megalopolis' in Piranesi Tra Venezia e L'Europa, a cura di Alessandro Bettango, N. Pozza Vicenza 1978, p. 304