Tom Beard: From the Ashes, an Italian Piazza in London at the House of Peroni
Crates of iridescent oranges sit on a pavement; tantalisingly half-open doors invite the viewer to imagine the cool sanctuary of the dim church behind; in the darkness, a streetlight filters through a high-strung washing line and illuminates a perfect circle on the cobbled street. In black and white, grandmothers in headscarves cross the street and a man in a vest leans over a balcony to talk to his neighbour. For one night only at the closing party of House of Peroni, Tom Beard captured the piazzas of Sicily in all their hushed and ancient beauty. A video installation accompanied an array of photographs, projected onto screens of white fabric panels hung from the ceiling. The effect for the viewer was to see the images as if glimpsing through a window, to catch an everyday scene fleetingly.
Beard, who photographed Florence Welch for the first album of Florence + The Machine, Lungs, in 2009 and has directed several of the band’s music videos, spent three weeks travelling with his Rolleiflex in Sicily this summer, stopping to rest in Palermo, the piazzas of which were ravaged by American bombs at the end of the Second World War. Few of the residents at Piazza Garraffello remained behind, and no attempt was made to rebuild the square. Now, the town is experiencing a resurgence, as creatives move in and the piazza comes alive at night with open air raves amid the shells of buildings. Beard described the allure of the square as he photographed it: “There was an amateurism in the way I shot it, but also a freedom. I was preoccupied with texture – with crumbling walls covered in graffiti, in some places washing lines strung with clothes had remained since the 1940s.“Composition is a big thing for me. The piazza was perfect for the medium format of the photographs. And whilst I normally hand print the images, I think it works to see them projected onto fabric. I like the way you can walk beneath them and they disappear overhead – it gives the photographs a sense of movement.”
What Beard does brilliantly is marry old and modern, as symbiotic as the image of graffiti on an ancient wall – or analogue photographs displayed on minimalist white panels. Whilst technical issues interrupted last night’s installation – it didn’t seem fully set up for an hour or so – the effect was a curious meld of nostalgia and anticipation, of the hushed Italian piazza ready to spring to life.
Tom Beard: From the Ashes, an Italian Piazza in London was at the House of Peroni for one night only on 28th November 2013. For further information visit Tom Beard’s website here.