Posts from June 2020

birds of a feather

June 30, 2020

I came across the beautifully anthropomorphic ceramics of Jean Derval today, and immediately I thought about Picasso. Constant comparisons to another artist can’t be easy, especially an artistic titan like Picasso. The two men worked together –– Derval trained with Picasso in the late 40s at the famous Madoura workshop –– and Picasso’s influence is evident. In 1951, Derval founded his own studio, Le Portail and gradually moved from domestic pottery to sculpture. The truth is, Picasso’s influence runs through most artists because his work spanned so many years (he was wildly prolific) and because he explored so many genres and styles over his 80-year career. What an artist like Derval does with that influence, and all the many other things that inform his process, is what makes the work unique. As Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.” As original as Picasso was, he also drew from the many inspirations around him. No doubt, that inspiration included the work of the many artists he inspired.

tableau piège

June 29, 2020

It’s a joy of mine to gather around a table with friends and family and eat and drink and make a big old mess. I like everyone to linger at the table long after we’ve put our forks down, with half eaten eggplants and fish bones before us. I am never quick to clear plates, because I find this stage of a meal thoroughly satisfying. Swiss artist, Daniel Spoerri, has elevated the remains of a meal to a high art. His photographs, which include the dirty dinner plates, the cigarette butts and the leftover bread rolls are beautifully messy, textured and real. And who doesn’t love dunking bread in olive oil long after the pavlova has been served?

needle and thread

June 26, 2020

If you have a moment, please take a look at this delightful embroidery. From galactic patterns and Sicilian lemons to birds, squirrels and daisies, ‘Juno’s’ work is detailed, delicate and original. She embellishes linens, clothes and accessories, all with a careful eye and sweet imagination. Just imagine this swallow flying across your napkins –– what a delight that would be.

in a glaze

June 25, 2020

I use very few glazes, mostly because glazing is a science, and I’m not fastidious enough for it. I do marvel over the magic of it though, what happens when a vitreous substance hits the intense heat of a kiln. There’s always an element of surprise. I came across the work of Melissa Weiss today, an American potter who uses a variety of celadons and ash glazes on her pieces. I love her designs, and the crudeness with which she glazes. Drips and chips add charm to her work. Have a look at her chunky mugs and highly patterned plates –– I think you’ll like them, too.

on your bike

June 24, 2020

It’s a rite of passage to watch your youngest child ride away from you on two wobbly wheels. None of us expected Luma to take off on her first attempt. She flew. And fell. And flew. And fell. And flew. “It’s a miracle,” exclaimed Antimo, as he ran along side her. Given that both he and Iole spent a whole sweaty month learning to cycle at bike camp, it really is a miracle that Luma took off the way she did. “She was ready,” said Jason, who had spent a few days in our drive working on her balance. That’s the thing about being the youngest. You get to be ready. You get to do things at your own pace with none of the pressure that parents so often stress on their firsts (read, themselves). Luma will be six this summer, and the only reason why she’s even riding a bike is because she insisted upon learning to. She also has four full-time cheerleaders at her side. And that’s got to put a little wind in one’s sails.

northern lights

June 23, 2020

With England preparing for a heatwave, the Tate posted this Chris Killip photo of a couple cat-napping in the British sunshine. From men fishing and children playing to sea coalers and couples eating fish and chips, Killip is known for his gritty reportage of communities in the northern regions of the U.K. Newcastle’s Anarcho-Punk Scene was central to Killip’s work in the 80s. “They are at the tough end of things, the people in my photographs,” says Killip. “It’s about the struggle for work, being out of work, fighting for work.” In this moving film, Killip speaks of the reverence he holds for his Dad, how he came to be a photographer, and how in spite of his large view camera, he was able to capture his subjects closely and authentically. “I use a plate camera and it’s very conspicuous, and I have a pistol grip so that I can trigger the shot with my thumb…. So you don’t know when I’m going to take a picture. Nor do I. It’s quite silent. And I don’t bring the camera up to my face.” Killip’s spends a lot of time with people, and immerses himself in their communities, so that his camera isn’t something odd and intrusive. “I can become part of the furniture.” Here, David and “Whippet” wait for Salmon to swim the stream in Skinningrove, North Yorkshire.


June 22, 2020

A number of people I know have either started, or added to an indoor garden in the last few months. My friend, Olivia has amassed a family of over 100 plants, several of which travel back and forth with her between her London flat and house in Norfolk. I’ve seen the joy these plants have brought her; the sense of purpose that caring for them has given her, and the satisfaction she’s gained through watching them blossom and grow. Plants are the embodiment of life, growth and progress, and surrounding ourselves with them can be rooting and lifting. If you have a moment today, have a walk through designer, Hilton Carter’s plant-filled apartment. His collection came out of nowhere, and multiplied gradually. “Ten went to thirty, thirty to sixty, and then all of a sudden, so many plants.” There is great tenderness and gratitude in Carter’s caring of his plants. “What helped me was understanding, really seeing and paying attention to a plant,” he says. “I’m not just bringing a plant in for the sake of adding colour or shape to a space. I am bringing life in.”

oil and flowers

June 19, 2020

I came across the work of American Impressionist painter, Mary Elizabeth Price today, and while I typically find Impressionism a little saccharine, her oil and gold leaf Hollyhocks jumped off the page at me. There’s something in the combination of mustards and pinks that I’m drawn to, and I love how densely packed the panel is. Price taught art to children at Greenwich House in New York City, but lived much of her life in her “Pumpkin Seed” home in New Buck, Pennsylvania surrounded by a garden of irises, peonies, mallows, delphiniums, poppies, hollyhocks, gladioli and lilies. “When I first saw the original cottage it was painted such a vivid yellow that I instinctively thought of a pumpkin; and it was so small that I named it Pumpkin Seed more in derision than anything else. But the quaintness of the name grew on us so that we’ve learned to love it.” 


June 18, 2020

Baya Mahieddine‘s (1931-1998) art works are everything I love to see in a painting; bright, saturated colour, rich pattern, whimsy, spontaneity and rule-defying compositions. Baya discovered clay and guaches as a young orphan girl when she was taken in by French painter, Marguerite Caminat Benhoura. Benhoura gave her materials and introduced her to French and Maghrebi art veterans. At just 17, Mahieddine was discovered by French dealer, Aimé Maeght, and André Breton, who showed Baya’s works at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme at Galerie Maeght in Paris. Her “childlike” style inspired both Matisse and Picasso. Baya’s race and her gender, are central themes in her paintings. Birds, fish, flowers and fruits are recurrent motifs, a visual language cultivated in childhood, while living in a colonial horticultural farm with her grandmother after her parents died. Of Baya’s work, Breton once wrote, “It’s undeniable that, in her bag of marvels, love potions and spells, rival extracts of perfumes from the Thousand and One Nights […] Baya, whose mission is to recharge with meaning those beautiful nostalgic words: Arabia Felix.” The division of Western and non-Western art is démodé, and Baya refused categorization. Instead, she occupied a space that was all her own.

in fabric

June 17, 2020

There’s a little fabric shop near Queen and Spadina where piles and piles of colourful and richly decorated African textiles spill out from white mesh bins. I’m often tempted to buy a bundle of them and make them into place mats or napkins, or just admire them as a bundle on my kitchen table. This morning, I came across the work of London-based Ghanaian designer, Phyllis Taylor whose gorgeous line SIKA is fashioned from eye-poppingly beautiful West African textiles. “To convince somebody to take something that was made in Africa, with African print and made by a designer that was virtually unheard of, it was very difficult,” Taylor told the BBC of her early challenges. She has since emerged as a designer to watch, with coverage in Vogue, a growing fan base and collaborations a plenty. Taylor’s latest collection includes a Batik puff sleeve jumpsuit, bright pink shirt dress and zebra print bolero that fuse traditional African prints with cuts that are modern, sexy and bold. Each piece is made sustainably in Ghana.

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