I Know Who Is Here (inspired by Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2020)) by Ian Tothill. Courtesy of the artist.


Ian Tothill: Collages Inspired by Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

at the Bradford City Library in Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
17 September-15 October 2022

Ian Tothill writes:
The collages in this exhibition depict imagined scenes from Piranesi. As a reader I was captivated by the rich complex world of the halls and the character of Piranesi. Was this his elaborate hallucination, an inner world? Was he held captive in some way? How was he so deeply content in conditions which seemed so harsh?

As a collage maker I like to juxtapose elements, to use fragments of narratives, to make the impossible happen. Susanna Clarke seemed to be doing something similar in her luminous writing. We are given tiny clues that there is a parallel “real” world alongside the halls, and that Piranesi has some memory of it. He refers to a crisp packet floating by. He mentions the Other holding a cheese sandwich. Mostly we hear about his joy in his responsibility for looking after the Halls and the skeletons, about his friends the birds and the statues, his knowledge of the tides and the planets.

As the novel unfolds, the back story is revealed and the methodical Piranesi has to question his deeply held beliefs about the world he is the custodian of. Collages started suggesting themselves to me, the imagery is so vividly described. The resulting collection is an impressionistic account of aspects of the book. The titles are quotes or chapter headings from the novel. My Piranesi characters aren’t accurate portraits, few are dual heritage, none are wearing broken glasses held together with fish leather. They represent a very astute young man making sense of the world based on the information available to him.

(text adapted from the artist’s press materials)


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