In New Vedute (2014-16), Simon Roberts takes traditional Italian tourist postcards found in junk shops and flea markets, all of which have been written on, stamped and sent back to the UK, and reanimates them for a contemporary purpose. Framing one image within another, he uses these postcards depicting idealised views of Italy— grand historical monuments, ancient ruins, picturesque natural landscapes and holiday destinations—as backdrops upon which he then superimposes vernacular photographs from Italy, which include his father’s holiday snapshots, his own photographs taken with a compact camera and freely-available images found online.
The use of opaque layers recalls Roberts’ series, The Last Moment, and its translucency is a filter through which our understanding of Italy is constructed and challenged. The combination of contemporary and picture postcard photographs also highlights some of the political, social and economic challenges facing Italy today, especially in light of mass tourism, financial instability, unemployment, the refugee crisis and immigration. This creates an inherent tension that can be disconcerting and in merging two photographs, taken at different times for different purposes, Roberts is also playing with the way we, literally, see Italy.
As well as exploring the pictorial side of the original postcard, Roberts creates titles for his repurposed postcards using the exchanges written on the back alongside the date they were sent.
In 2016 Roberts was invited to produce work for the Rome Commission, a project curated by Marco Delogu, which started in 2003. For the this edition of the Rome Commission, Roberts produced an updated set of his New Vedute postcards, which were exhibited alongside some large-format landscape photographs and installation work. The work was first presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (MACRO), October – December 2016.
Every year a renowned international photographer portrays the city of Rome in total freedom of interpretation. Previous artists have included Olivo Barbieri, Martin Bogren, Tim Davis, Tod Papageorge, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Anders Petersen, Hans Christian Schink, Alec Soth, Guy Tillim and Paolo Ventura.
View installation shots here
Contact sheet of photographic plates (pdf)
Essay by Italian writer and critic, Emanuele Trevi (pdf)
Essay by Italian curator, Flavio Scollo (pdf)
Exhibition catalogue published by Visionarea Art Space, Rome, 2017 (link)
Exhibition catalogue for ‘Coliseum: An Icon’ published by Electa, Rome, 2017 (link)