Posts from December 2020

all that glitters

December 31, 2020

I am a magpie for anything that shimmers and sparkles. El Anatsui‘s large scale wallhangings –– made from thousands of flattened bottles tops woven together with copper wire –– caught my eye immediately. His work combines hints of Ghanaian kente cloth, mosaics, tapestries and paintings by Klimt. Transformation, mass consumption and the environment are all central ideas in his work. At a glance, they look like a painting. I enjoy that surprise, when something looks like one thing from a far, and up close is something quite different. As with most things, Anatsui’s work is so much more intricate and complicated up close. The pieces also transform depending on how they’re displayed. I read on the Tate’s website (the Tate has an Anastui in its permanent collection) that Anatsui’s work arrives at institutions without instructions because he believes that galleries should be part of the creative process. “I don’t believe in artworks being things that are fixed,” says Anatsui. In a short film for Art Basel, Anatsui encourages young artists to play, and to be daring. “The golden rule is, there are no rules. As an artist your worth is determined by how you can operate without rules.”

from above

December 30, 2020

Land from above looks like an enormous tapestry or an intricate slab of onyx or marble. This aerial view of chili crops in the Umerkot District of Pakistan’s Sindh province looks like terrazzo. Georg Gerster was one of our best known air photographers, and so many of his images of lakes, quarries and lentil fields from above make me think of textiles. I imagine the world swathed in fabric. This photograph looks just like a piece of handwoven Kuba cloth. Perspective; it’s transformative. “Height provides an overview, and an overview facilitates incite, while incite generates consideration –– perhaps.”


December 29, 2020

I am drawn to the rich texture in McKenzie Dove‘s paintings, and to the beautiful simplicity of her geometric plaster sculptures. Her scratches and scribbles are reminiscent of Twombly. Her thick, sweeps of paint are applied with a knife. Dove grew up in a small town in Texas. The population was 2,500. “I would literally ride my horse into town, buy supplies, and go sketch till sunset,” she says. Years later, she now lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama in a gorgeous Tudor style white-washed studio with soaring ceilings and heaps of natural sunlight. I love the texture of this white canvas, and the quiet boldness of these black on black shapes. Dove is young, and already very collectible.


December 29, 2020

For many years I was a runner. I was in exceptional shape. But I wasn’t healthy. There is a fine line between consistency and obsession, and I crossed it. Six weeks into my third pregnancy, I came home from an evening run and disintegrated into the floor. That was it. A few weeks later, I was in my local swimming pool with a bright yellow noodle between my legs. Aqua-fit is the antithesis of running and the respite I needed after years of running my body into the pavement. After Luma was born, I traded classes for laps. I loved being in the water. And after so many years of running solo, I loved how swimming felt both solitary and communal. For five years, I swam two to three times a week. And then towards the end of last year, I found myself floating more than swimming. I’d often lay on my back in the deep end and just stare up at the ceiling. I’d move up and down the slow lane on my flutter board, careful not to collide with an octogenarian. By January, I’d stopped swimming all together. I was craving something different. That’s when I turned to yoga. I began with a few classes at my local community centre, and then when Covid settled in, one of my dearest friends in England organized for us to meet weekly on zoom with her yoga teacher, Ellie. We’ve gathered every week since April and over nine months, cultivated a beautiful archive of classes to draw on whenever we feel the urge. it’s been a gift to ourselves, and to each other. Most of the classes are yin –– slow, gentle and meditative –– and Ellie is often reminding us of the profound effect that slow, deliberate and gentle movement can have on the body. For someone who has lived her life filling each minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run this is new terrain. Sometimes, we’ll be in a forward bend for ten minutes or more. “Keep your resolve strong and your attitude gentle,” says Ellie. Back in the spring, I’d very often rest in child’s pose for the first half of the class. Olivia whistles as she exhales which makes me giggle. And her hair always ends up in a huge bouffant. There is a comfort and warmth and intimacy that I never imagined finding on zoom. Ellie brings such deep wisdom, intuition and compassion to the space. I have learned so much from her. My children walk in and out all the time, and in late July, our classes collided with the constant banging and drilling of builders. Ellie’s puppy, Benny yaps away in her Brixton flat and I can sometimes hear the sirens and airplanes over London. “What is it to meditate on a mountain if you cannot meditate in the market?” I don’t tune out the din, I am learning to be with it. I have no aspirations of a perfect pigeon or plow, and I couldn’t care less how far I fold into a forward bend. “We have nowhere to get to,” Ellie says. Olivia sent me a blanket and blocks and other props last month and what a difference all that makes. Surrendering, knowing when we need support, breathing, smiling through the discomfort, recognizing and honouring our limits, these are all lessons I am learning through our practice. It isn’t running. It isn’t swimming. It’s something new.

Christmas Day

December 26, 2020

silent night

December 24, 2020

There are few things more beautiful than Christmas carols at Chelsea Old Church in London. Built in 1157, this post-medieval jewel shines brightly on Christmas Eve, as families squeeze into its pews to tra la la to carols that nobody needs a songbook to remember. Children are given a single white candle and oranges pierced with cloves. It’s a miracle that no one’s hair doesn’t go up in flames. There’s always a nativity scene, with an adorably cute baby Jesus, and plenty of children dressed up as cows and goats. It’s charming and nostalgic, and would warm even Ebenezer’s cold heart. In the Bleak Midwinter is a favourite carol of mine. As a child, I sang it with my friend, Luisa Monachello in front of a large congregation. Only when I opened my mouth to hit the high note –– give my heart –– no sound came out. I froze. So, I always chuckle a little when that carol appears on the order of service. Silent Night is another favourite. When the candles are all lit, and the congregation starts to sing, Chelsea Old Church is truly majestic. It’s sad to think of it sitting empty today.

fa la pasta

December 24, 2020

I’ve stumbled upon Aimee Twigger‘s exquisite flower pressed pastas many times, and thought, these are just too beautiful to send into a boil. Think ribbons of handmade pappardelle with corn flower petals pressed into them. If the kitchen is your creative place, here is Triggers’s guide to making fresh pasta, and here is her step-by-step tutorial to adding herbs and petals. I love this kind of dedication to something so beautiful, something that will be gobbled up in minutes. It reminds me of land art, mandalas and sand castles; all beautiful, noble and transient endeavours.

our daily bread

December 22, 2020

“In times of great uncertainty, knowing how to make your own bread and thereby feed your family, is palpably reassuring,” wrote Dale Berning Sarwa in the Guardian last spring. “The very act of kneading dough is calming, like Play-Doh for adults.” While I’ve personally had no yearnings to bake bread this year, I’ve admired all of those around me baking baguettes, brioches and sourdough challahs by the loaf. It made so much sense. Few things are as comforting as bread and butter. Both the act of making and eating bread is humbling and reassuring. Linda Sofia Ring’s artful sourdoughs are a true labour of love, adorned with Picasso doves, vases and faces. But for something a little less laborious, Berning Sarwa’s article is filled with suggestions. No knead? No bake? Sign me up.

’twas the night before Christmas

December 21, 2020

My mum has a handful of friends –– all certifiably bonkers –– that she’s known most her life. They’ve been through thick and thin together. And for the good part of a decade, they celebrated Christmas together. Christmas Eve was always a memorable affair. We gathered at our house, and my Mum (in cashmere, reindeer antlers and a festive pinny) did all the cooking. A turkey and a goose. Potatoes roasted in goose fat. Parsnips breaded in parmesan crumbs. Sprouts. Champagne jelly. And a Bûche De Noël. The grownups were three sheets to the wind before we’d even passed around the cocktail sausages. There were charades. There was a quiz. There were paper hats (sitting slightly askew) on everyone’s heads. Nowhere to go for the holidays? My Mum invited you to Christmas Eve dinner. Come one, come all. We laughed ridiculously. We ate enormously. One year, we even made it to midnight mass. Even as sultry teenagers, we loved our Christmas Eve fêtes. So much so that to this day, from opposite sides of the world, all us ‘kids’ send each other notes, revel in nostalgia, think of the laughter and the silliness and the brandy butter. Miss each other.


December 19, 2020

I bought a single hydrangea yesterday and plonked it in a short glass vase and I can’t tell you how lovely it looks. While I very much appreciate the imagination and whimsy of a multi-bloomed arrangement, a single flower is often all I need to see. Hydrangeas are a classic, and a flower I never tire of. Replace the water everyday and it’ll last a good while.

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