Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heavy with Lightness


About this time of year, the trees float, their branches
disappear, blossoms from head to toe, 'Symphony
in White Number One'. Bare, stark, jagged turns
lithe, bright, ethereal. Winter's heavy white gives way
to spring's delicate hope, fluttering. Blinding erasure, sun caught
in your eyes staring up, enchanted, heavy with lightness.

James McNeill Whistler, 'Symphony in White No. 1', 1861-62.
Oil on canvas, 215 x 108 cm (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)


From National Gallery of Art website:

When Whistler submitted The White Girl to the Paris Salon in 1863, the tradition–bound jury refused to show the work. Napoleon III invited avant–garde artists who had been denied official space to show their paintings in a "Salon des Refus├ęs," an exhibition that triggered enormous controversy. Whistler's work met with severe public derision, but a number of artists and critics praised his entry. In the Gazette des Beaux–Arts, Paul Manz referred to it as a "symphony in white," noting a musical correlation to Whistler's paintings that the artist himself would address in the early 1870s, when he retitled a number of works "Nocturne," "Arrangement," "Harmony," and "Symphony."

Whistler used variations of white pigment to create interesting spatial and formal relationships. By limiting his palette, minimizing tonal contrast, and sharply skewing the perspective, he flattened forms and emphasized their abstract patterns. This dramatic compositional approach reflects the influence of Japanese prints, which were becoming well known in Paris as international trade increased. 

Clearly, Whistler was more interested in creating an abstract design than in capturing an exact likeness of the model, his mistress Joanna Hiffernan. His radical espousal of purely aesthetic orientation and the creation of "art for art's sake" became a virtual rallying cry of modernism.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Quotable Quotes: Nigella in Observer Food Monthly

Nigella's London cheesecake. Photograph: Martin Poole.
(I like to think of baking as a mixture of chemistry and poetry.) All human beings have a deep-seated belief in, and need for, transformation and I feel that baking appeals to that instinct, in a way that - at the risk of sounding naff - soothes the soul.

-Nigella Lawson writing for the Observer Food Monthly, 16 March 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Return.

To be honest, leaving Montreal and returning to London, I was on the fence. I had been home for 20 days and had enjoyed a luxurious amount of time spent in the simple but profound presence of family members and reconnecting with a few friends. It was full of comfort (well, with an intermittent spat of drama, as is to be expected around the holidays). But mostly my heart was full from the time being back with my parents, my brother, my sister, brother-in-law & nephew and so many more. My aunt and uncle, my 99-year-old grandmother, were all just a short car-ride away. There is something lovely about the proximity of family. So London seemed to be tearing me away from all that, I've begun wrestling with the future and whether a move back to North America made sense in the long run, questions, doubts, all those ruminations of the new year and time away from the daily flow.

Yet, fresh off the plane and immersed right back into the workplace, I quickly remembered the community I have become a part of. I am blessed to work with a group of people who bring a wide smile to my face. Especially in the art world, it is unique to find a work environment that feels almost familial, the respect and fondness that exists between employees. 

And then the weekend, a return to Broadway Market and all the familiar faces of vendors waving hello and friends milling about, small dogs and small children, such a beautiful humanity about the place. I couldn't help but smile. And to my surprise, I ran into a few friends, unplanned, at the market, at a random train station -- life's serendipity and happenstance. Here is the life I have built up, slowly budding and presenting itself. Here it is a celebration of life and community. Here it is where I am and where I am meant to be.

Sunshine over Broadway Market

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flaming December


I saw the cover of Vogue for December 2013 and my brain set on fire. I'd seen this pose before, I knew it from art history. Without intending it, a voracious need to Google and solve this compare-and-contrast suddenly overtook me. And after too long searching various iterations of reclining women in dresses, I found the match in Frederic Leighton's 'Flaming June' of 1895. Quite the thrilling evocation, demonstration of timeless inspiration. Would make quite a thrilling start to a high school art history class...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Power of the Noodle

Refrain: it's been a while.

It's been a long few weeks and now I resurface from the frenzy and flurry of Frieze. More like bobbing to the surface. Such is the energy-sapping nature of being alert at all times during an art fair. Don't get me wrong, it has been stimulating and invigorating. But now time for recharge.

Last night, for the first time in I don't remember, my trajectory was direct, straight home from work. It felt so foreign to return to joining the sea of commuters homebound to make dinner and relax. My mother flew in from Montreal to join in on the Frieze madness and it was a joy to share my daily life with her for a week-- but it too feels foreign to not have her in the same time zone, a tube ride away, to share a hug and debrief the day's activities. And now the return to the sometimes-solitary adult ex-pat life.

Today, I still felt drained; somehow I expected one night at home to act as complete recharge. Near the end of the afternoon, thinking of heading home and cooking, my lethargy kicked in, bemoaning -- or perhaps just whimpering -- to not being ready  and not being up to the task. Solution? Soup. Noodles. Koya.

When I am feeling run down, my panacea has always been a good bowl of soup. I'm partial to a bowl of pho or a simple broth with thick fresh noodles. Koya, now expanded to have a bar neighboring its quaint ever-popular permanent-queue-outside restaurant, hits just the spot with its, dare I say it, scrummy noodles. The bar serves all the same fixing of the restaurant but somehow not everyone has gotten the memo. Maybe they remain steadfast to sitting at a table or honouring the original; meanwhile, I walked past the queue and right into a near-empty bar and ordered a bowl of solace, a bowl of recharge.

Fresh udon noodles, simple broth and some thinly sliced scallions served in a thick handmade ceramic bowl emanating heat.

I left the bar, packed full of people in the span of one bowl of soup, to head home, feeling refreshed and recharged. 

I feel ready to re-embrace life's challenges and charge ahead with new energy. As the Koya website says in its charmingly badly translated mission statement, we 'believing in noodle power'. I believe.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

History in Language

Every now and then I become fascinated with a twist in language that contains within it poetic and intellectual dimensions. Recently I have been fascinated with French words for Mr. and Mrs. The words MonsieurandMadamecontain within them links to their Medieval history. Broken down, these words literally mean 'my lord' (mon sieur) and 'my lady' (ma dame). What is even more wonderful (at least in my nerdy mind!) is the fact that the plural versions,Messieursand Mesdames, aren't just simple plurals with an S added to the end, but have preserved the plurals of their pronouns from their older 'ancestors' (mes sieurs and mes dames). Neat, non?