Romina De Novellis: Tales from the South

7 - 26 June 2022 London



  • Mon–Fri, 2–6 pm
  • Sat, all day
  • Sunday 26 June, all day


Please book your place for the performance 24 hours in advance by emailing the date and time you intend to visit to


Richard Saltoun Gallery is delighted to present the first solo show in the UK of performance artist Romina DE NOVELLIS. Curated by Paola Ugolini, De Novellis' performative exhibition at Richard Saltoun Gallery is an experiential journey through the artist's practice, which merges anthropological studies and performance.


Hailing from Naples - a city rich in history and traditions - De Novellis' work is centred around her body, a powerful tool to explore the issues in the Mediterranean areas, and to denounce the abuse and limitations imposed by contemporary society. 


Endurance and repetition are key to her practice. Her very long performances push the limits of her body & mind and, with repetitive gestures, they transport viewers in an alternate dimension where the passing of time is reduced to an unending moment, a single detail of our everyday lives that carries the meaning of life itself.  The idea of the cage is also recurrent, whether as an allegorical space that expresses a feeling of claustrophobia, or as the small physical spaces she performs in, or as a condition of disability. 


For her London debut at Richard Saltoun Gallery, De Novellis will enact her Veglia (2011) performance daily for the duration of the exhibition. The artist first performed this piece in the Parisian apartment of art critic Marc Lenot.


Veglia sees De Novellis naked and kneeling behind a see-through screen made of red wool threads. Isolated in a restricted space and accompanied by the folkloristic chants sung by female farmers of Salento - one of Italy's southern regions - the artist slowly undoes the screen with repetitive gestures, wrapping the threads on themselves one by one. The artist's body, shrouded during the day, is slowly revealed in a suggestive game of unveiling of the opposites.


In this performance, De Novellis enacts a hypnotic and ancestral performance akin to pagan ritual. The artist's attentive study of the anthropological aspects, rituals, and customs typical of the Mediterranean culture fits within her eco-feminist research that questions the intersection between patriarchy, capitalism, and exploitation of women's bodies, non-binary and queer.


Also on view will be a series of installations, video works, photographs and sculptures from De Novellis past performances such as GRADIVA (2017), for which she was granted permission to perform from sunset to sunrise all over Pompeii’s Archeological Park. GRADIVA was inspired by a Roman bas-relief of the same name and became the basis for Sigmund Freud’s famous 1907 study Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva. The performance saw De Novellis dragging the cast of her  body - which looks like the bodies that were found in Pompeii after the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius - around on a cart.


The back of the gallery will host an immersive environment that recreates De Novellis’ performative piece Si tu m’aimes, protège-moi (2020) through video, sound, tactile and light elements. In the arid and dry countryside of Southern Italy women covered the ears of hens before practising any violent gesture that could have shocked them and caused their infertility. Addressing this custom, in this performance De Novellis carefully takes a hen on her knees and protects her ears from the noise.


The exhibition is realised with the support of Centre national des arts plastiques (National Centre for Visual Arts) and Galerie Alberta Pane, France.

Installation Views