Life

la coiffure

February 20, 2024

Iole was born with a head full of hair, black as ink, and exquisitely parted to one side like she got hold of a Kent comb in the womb. It wasn’t long before the curls came. Dozens of them. She was eighteen-months when we took her for her first haircut. I was hoping for a silent film star fringe but she came away with bangs worse than the “I look like a pencil” ones that Claire got in Season two of Fleabag. That took a while to grow out. From there on in it was shoulder-length waves all the way. In the summer months, her waves turned into ringletts with tiny fusilli forming around the nape of her neck. I’ve brushed my girl’s hair a thousand times. And braided it just as many. High pony. Low pony. Bows. Barrettes. Headbands with flowers as big as dinner plates. Ballerina bun. Top knot. Backcombed witch’s mane. Lice. Thrice. Graduation. First party. And then today, for the first time ever, Iole did my hair. She used one of those fancy round brushes that heats up. I felt like I was at the salon. When she finished –– I look great, btw –– it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I combed her hair. Months? Years? We rarely know when something’s going to be the last time. The last time our kid climbs on to our shoulders. The last time we zip up their jacket. Or brush their teeth. Or comb their hair. Imagine the ceremonies, the lighting of candles and wishes and prayers that would take place with every “last time” if we only knew.

hands on

February 5, 2024

When I was a child, I spent many hours at my Dad’s office waiting for him to wrap up work so we could head out for our weekly dinner date at Mr. Kai’s. His secretary, Pat Brown made me sugary tea and gave me “cheques” to sign. When I saw Julia Couzens, thread on zerox series, I was immediately swept back to evenings in the city, photocopying my hands while my Dad talked loudly on the phone next door. Sometimes, I photocopied my face. And my feet, too. Maybe Mrs. Brown put a lump too many in my tea. A few weeks ago, my son and I were at a nearby xerox shop getting copies of my passport. You can imagine his embarrassment when his Mum shoved her head in the machine. You know, for old times’ sake. Have a look at Couzens’ series. Her sewn letters bring a feeling a permanence to fleeting xerox images.

the swimming pool

February 4, 2024

One of the things that I love about lane swimming is that it’s both solitary and communal. I am alone in a giant salty bathtub of friends and strangers. An art collective provides a similar experience. A house full of artists who work in solitude and occasionally convene on landings and in stairwells to talk about paint brush bristles and other serious matters. There’s a trust and respect that forms among people who share a creative space. My studio, like several others in the building, is exposed for all to see. There’s vulnerability in that. A painting that’s losing its way. An unfinished drawing. A vessel with cracks through the middle. We’re all exposing battle scars. Artists with private studios often leave their doors open; an invitation to talk, to exchange ideas. To feel connected. Anytime I’m invited into another artist’s space I know it’s a privilege, a glimpse into their inner world; grosgrain ribbon, rubber tubing, ink, glue, an old teapot with half a spout. Amy keeps tulips weeks after they’ve died, beauty in decay, exquisite and fragile like a nonagenarian grande dame. Melissa’s attic studio is an homage to mother artist, her textile based installations scattered among soft toys and playmats. Atleigh’s studio is as humble, warm and considered as her still lives. We are a satellite encased in a downtown Victorian house with an allotment and mismatched linoleum floors. Close to home, and far enough from reality. Everyone’s here to make art. Clay, fabric, polyethylene. Some of us come early in the morning. Others late at night. Alone with company. Silent if not for the occasional sneeze or rustling of paper.

rock, paper, scissors

January 11, 2024

Nicolas Burrows‘ playful mixed media collages were just what my eye was looking for on this gloomy day. The London-based multi-media artist is an illustrator, author of books, and musician. It’s his collages that I’m swooning over. There are trees that look like lampshades, upside down skyscrapers and a stringed instrument that could just as well be a butterfly. What a weird and brilliant imagination. Trees are a recurring theme. “I have never lived in the forest, but I have spent a lot of time seeking out the company of trees. From the North-West of England, to the Norwegian Fjords and the West coast of Canada I have walked and thought and sung and written and drawn.”

pezzettino

January 9, 2024

In Pieces But Still Holding It Together sounds like an apt description of most people I know. In fact, the longer I’m here, the more I realize that we’re all a bit shredded up inside. What I love about Bouke de Vries‘ ceramic sculptures is how all the shattered pieces find a home within one beautiful, translucent vessel. Because that’s what we all are, walking vessels, custodians of all our little pieces.

past present

December 27, 2023

It’s a beautiful idea to take relics from different cultures and time periods and re-imagine them as contemporary sculptures. French artist, Nicolas Lefebvre does exactly this. A background in antiques informs his work. As does his extensive travel. Imagine an antique Amazonian headdress and Nigerian coins, or a Khmer mirror and a Berber tent peg. Each one of his “objets montés” are a delicate balance of colour, texture and scale. As is often the case with collections such as these, choosing just one is impossible. I want them all.

try hard

December 23, 2023

Robert De Niro hit the nail on the head when he said there’s no right or wrong in art. “There’s only good and bad. And “bad” usually happens when you’re trying too hard to do it right.” Kate Semple‘s ceramics are a glorious example of the possibilities available to an artist when she, as De Niro says, “feels loose enough to create what you want to create.” Conventional forms –– vase, bowl, cup –– take on a life of their own in Semple’s hands. Each piece is just a little bit lopsided. Seams are unfinished. She makes no apology for running glazes or wonky rims. Quite the opposite, she celebrates them. “Getting it right” often means denying ourselves the eccentricities that make us unique. That render a piece (or a person) interesting. Human. This is a slow and painful learning curve for me. I’m grateful to have a studio space, finally, where I am “free to try anything. To have choices.” I hope to “loosen up” a little more every year. What I’m most drawn to in Semple’s work is exactly that, that it feels free and unfettered. And what is more beautiful than that?

heart of gold

December 22, 2023

There are five people living in our home, and three more if you count our neighbour, Angelo and his niece and nephew, Nicole and Carlos. Our walls are so thin that we may as well share a home. Sometimes, I hear Ange’s radio and I wince thinking about all the wailing, roaring, singing, dancing, bashing, squealing he must hear from us. A few years ago, Nicole knocked on the wall at 7 a.m. to signal to the kids to stop making so much noise. That’s the one and only complaint we’ve ever had. “I’ll take the noise over silence any day,” he used to say to me after his Mum died. Christina was a woman of few words. Tough as nails. An immigrant. A widow. She wore a teal blue coat in the winter and loved pro-wrestling. Whenever the kids and I got locked out of the house we’d go next door to watch guys pummel one another in her front room. Ange would give them Coca Cola, or some other fizzy beverage they’d never be allowed to drink at home. They’d bring out the family albums —Ange in a tux at his brother Alvaro’s wedding — and share immigrant stories reminiscent of the ones we’d hear from Jason’s grandparents. I remember coming home one day a few years after Christina died to find four large garbage bags on the porch, her teal coat peeking through one of them. Shortly after that, Alvaro’s grown kids came to live with Angelo and life was restored to his side of the house. He was born in this house –– Ange is almost 70 –– “and they’ll take me out in a coffin.” He went to all our local schools, and ran around our lanes at night like our kids do today. Some nights, he and his pals would get as far the Philosopher’s Walk, lift up the grates, climb into the sewers and make their way into the Royal Ontario Museum. Angelo never married. He worked in a printing factory. He’s one of my favourite people on earth. When we renovated our house, a massive headache for Ange, his response was, “you have to break some eggs to make an omelette. I’d take yous guys over anyone else.” We bring him Ferrero Rocher’s at Christmas and a pizza on his Birthday. I’d like to think he knows how much we love him. He knows our rhythms, and we know his. He was there when we moved in. When we brought our first baby home. The terrible nights. The joyful mornings. To Ange, I feel a forever debt of thanks. I sat in his kitchen today catching up on Coronation Street. He’s the only person I know who still watches it. He smelled, as he always does of soap, coffee and cigarettes. And I thought to myself, of all of the houses, of all the streets, we landed here, next to you.

the constant gardener

December 21, 2023

“The things I did were the things I wanted to do…. so little by little, it became what it is,” says the German-born artist and landscape designer, Robert Jakob of his garden in Springs, NY. Irises, foxgloves, peonies, roses, geraniums, forget-me-nots and lavender all grow in his garden and inspire his paintings. There’s a sense of urgency to his flowers; immediate, fleeting, intense. “One tends to want to be in control, if you make a painting or a drawing,” he says. “Yet things happen that you don’t plan for—they just sneak in. But you can erase them, fix them, paint over them. In nature it’s different, because things never stand still and you can’t do anything about them.”

line dance

December 18, 2023

“It’s cool to see an old lady on the front cover of Vogue,” says my teenage daughter on seeing Isabella Rossellini on the cover of this month’s Italian Vogue. We’re standing in line at the supermarket with a week’s worth of food in our trolley. “71 isn’t old,” I shoot back, tossing a parsnip on the conveyor belt. But I know what she means. And I couldn’t agree more. I had zero interest in the hoopla around The Supers’ September Vogue cover. As the New York Times writer, Vanessa Friedman put it, Do Supermodels age, or just get airbrushed? This cover though, this cover is beautiful and majestic and real. “I find it very reductive to appear younger than my age and in any case it’s a losing battle,” says Rossellini. “I asked Vogue Italia not to retouch the photos and leave me with my wrinkles. Francesca Ragazzi, who directs the magazine, accepted: the new generations are looking for more modern and intelligent definitions of beauty.’ I hope so.

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