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?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Elemental Exploration

Something clicked yesterday, or unclicked, I still can't figure it out. Participating in an AcroYoga workshop, I got to a moment where I couldn't handle it any more, emotions just unlocked and I needed to get outside and re-centre, breathe. It is quite amazing when things align - whether positive or negative - and get you to a profound place. Not that I got to any sense of closure or explanation for it all, but it happened.

I have felt slightly unhinged through my recent experiences with Aerial and AcroYoga workshops. The purity of taking flight and fully embracing the air element is unsettling, at least for me.

Woodcut, man and the four elements, Hans Weiditz, Petrarch's De remediis utriusque fortunae, Remedies for Both Good and Bad Fortune or Phisicke Against Fortune, 1532

All this gets me wondering as to the elements and exploring their personal significance. Earth, Fire, Water, Air all harken back to a very basic experiences and everyone and anyone has some sort of relationship to each. What would it mean to lead a workshop where people explore their relationships to the elements? Which element feels more comfortable? Which element feels unsettling? Perhaps it should be a 5-part workshop, exploring each element separately, journalling on certain reflections/prompts, and then uniting the elements in various combinations? Somehow in parallel with the chakras?

Getting ideas out into the air...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Finding Ritual, Faith Lies Underfoot

"When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, 'If I jog, I'll be a much better person.' ' If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person.' ' If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person.' Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, 'If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage.' 'If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I can't get on, my job would be just great.' And 'If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.'

But lovingkindness — maitri — toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest."  -Pema Chodron

I  blame the changing seasons, but I have been feeling the flux lately and all the control issues and lack of control that comes with it. Amidst it all, I have been re-examining my yoga/meditation practice. Often, when I 'fall off the wagon', as I like to say, I tend to get anxious about it. I worry that I am not practicing, or, rather, I am painfully aware of the fact that I am not practicing. Yet it is something to realize that these practices themselves evolve constantly. It would be something to practice daily, every morning at the same time. However, such a staunch routine can ignore the flux of the body and the mind; there are mornings when yes, you would be better served to take that extra half-hour snooze in bed. And then again, it is good too, to establish a good habit of getting on the mat.

I also approach my yoga practice in the same way as the quote begins above. Many times, if I am honest, I have gone to my practice to be better, to look better, to feel better -- body image or perfect asanas coming to the fore. I am trying to re-found the core of my practice; health is very much a happy result of yogic routine but there is a deeper communion which should not be ignored; it should be explored. I think I miss ritual in my life, and would like to find within yoga a way to reflect more mindfully.

I'm not sure if it is being 27 and catching sight of 30 down the way, but the future presses heavily on my mind too lately. Where is my career headed? Where am I to live? Where am I to start a family? It almost seems like anything is possible (and, too, that nothing can happen). It's scary. It also seems so silly to get caught up in planning all the tomorrows and forget about the todays. But reconciling being present alongside keeping a steady but not-too-firm hand on the steering wheel is quite a delicate balance. And as always, it is about cultivating faith, that intangible concept to which I come back again and again.

So to practice loving kindness, to feel the earth beneath my feet -- and to breathe in and breathe out, it really is that simple.

"My path is the path of stopping, the path of enjoying the present moment. It is a path where every step brings me back to my true home. It is a path that leads nowhere. I am on my way home. I arrive at every step."  -Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beyond the Runway

Sante d'Orazio, Versace, 1997.
Ethereal photographic treatment of fashion -- the fantasy beyond reality.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buck Up

I have adopted the motto before to 'do one thing every day that scares you', and it has been really enlightening to notice those moments where fear paralyses you from action and, consequently, to let it go and move on.

I've also heard the expression 'Man Up', which in its batting around of gender in stereotypical ways really bothers me. Another expression in the vein of facing your fears and rising to the occasion which I think suits much better is 'Buck Up'. Whereas it is essentially the same as 'Man Up', somehow in jumping species, the use of the masculine gender as a verb doesn't seem as offensive. Man or woman, I think we can all buck up, i.e. don our antlers or horns and charge ahead!

Marc Swanson,  'Untitled (Black Fighting Bucks)', 2009

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dance Me to the End of Love

I didn't realize Leonard Cohen's song grew out of such a place. Darkness inspires beauty.

"'Dance Me to the End Of Love' ... it's curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that's why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin," meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity."

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I've been soaking up some great remixes in a few yoga classes recently and it got me thinkin', going beyond the moves, what does it mean to remix? What would it mean to bring the idea of the remix and remixing into a yoga class and off the mat into life?

A remix takes a song and either adds a different beat, or messes rhythmically with the lyrics. Basically to remix means to take something already in existence and make it your own. It is indeed a message that is imbued in the yoga classes I attend with Brendan at Stretch, and indeed the place where I hear these remixes. Take the poses and make them your own, add your bass line. Take the flow and make it your own, where are you going to put the chorus? Maybe you'll leave it out all together. Your breath is your baseline, follow it and remix the class into your body.

Some of the most beautiful classes I've been too have had everyone flowing in all directions, but breath is loud and focus is intense. My other favourite yoga moment that embodies this principle is circles of Om where everyone starts together but, as each person runs out of breath, they each start again in their own time -- the circle of Om thus becomes wavelike. And somehow it subsides all together - everyone tuning in to themselves while keeping an ear to the ocean.

While we all take comfort in a set routine, or a set taught sequence, there is a beauty to knowing the flux of your own body, to really listening in. Find the space to explore teachings -- put your thing down, drop it, and reverse it -- find the rhythm of your breath, hear the beating of your heart, spin your remix.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Fire, My Hearth

Last week I spoke of my abs, questioning their connection, never really feeling how exactly they connect to my body, how they fit in. I've been turning over the idea in my head all week, keeping it somewhere at the back of my mind, and had a little moment of clarity in yoga class yesterday.

As a Sagittarian, I've always known that my zodiac is a fire sign, but haven't really felt it until recently. I know that I can have a very fiery personality, intense passion, searing zeal, and sometimes a burning bluntness. Harnessing this fire has been a journey; fires can be violent and aggressive, but they can also be nurturing, warming, welcome. While paradoxical, it is interesting to reframe fire in a positive way. In meditations, I have been naturally finding mandala mudra. (As seen below, put your right open palm on top of your left, and bring the thumbs to touch) It is, apparently, a gesture of wholeness. This position places my inner flame in my abdomen.

I've also dug up my haramaki (from http://www.haramakilove.com/). It is a garment -- I guess you'd call it a belly band -- that is of Japanese origin, actually originally worn by Samurai underneath their armour. In modern incarnation, it has become both a fashion and health accessory (the latter to help stimulate warmth in the belly's organs). It's really helped me become more aware of my belly, my abs, and how it supports my back and really acts as a center-point for my whole body.

I've come to visualize my abdomen as a hearth, a fire that stokes my body. Keeping such a visualization to mind in yoga and life, it can be quite strengthening to get into that central fire.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From the Mat

I've decided that I am going to start a series of writings, little reflective posts, in the style of  those encouraging inward-turning messages that some yoga teachers use as a guiding principle throughout their classes. Thinking back to the powerful and influential teachers of my past -- their words of advice, their visual imagery, their flips in perspective -- a few of their inspired and articulate phrases have stuck with me over time -- not just through class, but through the rest of my life as well.

So stay tuned, nuggets of yogic inspiration coming soon...

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Journeying to the Core

For as long as I can remember, I've known that my 'weakpoint' has always been my core. It isn't that I don't have abdominal muscles. Really, it's more complicated then that. I think it is so easy for so many other muscles to jump into movements meant specifically for abs. Whether in a yoga class or following a podcast, the amount of attention I need to REALLY focus on my abs is seldom fully engaged. Honestly, if a class went at the speed I needed to be aware of my abdominals at every moment, it would be moving at the rate of molasses. And not that that is a bad thing. Such considered movement, feeling what it may feel like to alter some attention or fire on different muscles, would be such an incredible guided meditation of the body.

Part of my problem too is that I don't really know what the abdominals are connected to. I know they underline the whole thorax and basically ARE the midsection of the body and going to the ribs and whatever. But I fail to see how abs are supposed to be a powerhouse for inversions. I mean where do they connect? Curious, I did look it up and found the amazing muscle anatomy below -- the coolest thing I found was the little patch of muscle between the front and back body, showing the posterior abdominal muscles -- they connect down to the legs, making the link between abs and inner thighs a little more enlightened.

Now for it all to sink in and rev into use, that's another journey.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fire & Ice

After a fire at a Chicago warehouse, an unreal landscape.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lost Wax

Last night, I popped into White Cube (Mason's Yard) to see the latest work of Belgian artist Kris Martin. I was met with a purity of form, both material and intellectual, that really struck a chord with me. Downstairs were a series of found prints, playfully altered, along with a sculpture installation consisting of a series of sandstone blocks, tombstone-like in form, arranged like dominos. Chilling, pure, playful, morbid. It's an installation that fires the mind, shifting accepted form into a new space.

For me, however, his Lost Wax series was truly fascinating above all else. Here too, Martin plays with accepted form and recreates it in another incantation. Here, eighteen shelves from an apiary have been cast in bronze using the lost wax technique. Intricate fragile details have been rendered immortal. It is a marvel to witness and has real weight. Considering the reality of the decline of bee population worldwide, both the title of the series as well as the monuments Martin creates strike a poignant note.

Does the work have value? On one hand it can be considered decorative and simple, but I don't believe this is fair, Martin's aesthetic is an exceeding strength, masterfully crafted; there is, additionally, a subtle yet powerful intellectual engagement with form, shifting and re-engineering it in novel ways. A show definitely worth seeing.

Images courtesy of White Cube

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Fernand Khnopff (Belgian, 1858-1921)
oil on panel
18 x 7.3cm (7 1/16 x 2 7/8in).Painted circa 1906

'Magicienne depicts a strong woman invested with unearthly powers, standing alone in the narrow space, a format favoured by the artist. Dressed in rich robes and adorned with heavy jewellery she stands immobile and implacable. Khnopff presents her in a typically elaborate and highly decorative manner, her regal air perhaps explaining her previous misidentification as a Queen. 

The formative influences of Delacroix, Gustave Moreau and the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and the artist's love of Symbolist poetry and Decadent literature are suffused through the depiction of theMagicienne. She represents an ideology of doubling, simultaneously close and far away, blurred and precise, strong and fragile. Further, Khnopff seems to be paying tribute to his personal philosophy On ne a que soi (one only has oneself), making this work both introspective and out of reach. 

In the early 1970s Magicienne was acquired by the Galleria dei Bibliofili in Milan, founded by Piero Fornasetti, one of the most innovative designers of the twentieth century. Along with his friend Gio Ponti, Fornasetti revolutionised interior design and was instrumental in making Italian design famous all over the world. It passed from Bibliofili to Philippe Daverio, a professor and art critic well known in Italy for his original and highly popular TV art programmes. Daverio then gifted the painting to the renowned architect, painter and designer Massimo Scolari.'

Up for auction at Bonham's Impressionist and Modern Art sale on February 5, 2013.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

States of Play

During a recent trip to New York, I crossed paths with some interesting works of art that seemed difficult to conjure from a description of their elements. With ‘Shadow Monsters’ from Philip Worthington and Christian Marclay’s 'The Clock' at MoMA and Ann Hamilton’s ‘The Event of a Thread’ at the Park Avenue Armory, the experience of the artworks far surpassed the initial description. Numerous times throughout the trip people would ask me, is it really worth seeing? Is it really that good? The answer was always yes.

While waiting to view ‘The Clock’, Worthington’s wild shadow play enveloped us.  Standing in front of a bright white screen, the shadows of both the young and the young-at-heart were transformed with the aid of some sort of computer technology, adding shapes and sounds to contours of people in the projections on two walls. The resulting silhouettes on the screens enlivened shadow-play to monstrous proportions – yet in a very sweet and fun way. Both young and old leapt at the opportunity to dance around in front of the screen. A din of laughter and levity filled the room, this is what smiles sound like.

‘The Clock’ hadn’t really been on my radar to be honest. And when I read the description about cinematic snippets of clocks strung together, I was still ho-hum. But the ladies at the information desk had been so enthusiastic, I decided that it was worth a look (and my mother was beyond keen and curious as well!). Inside, the experience was mind-blowing. Yes, snippets of clocks from film over the last hundred years, BUT, coordinated with the actual time and lasting 24-hours! I could have stayed in that theatre for hours, the editing was so well done, bits from movies melded together seamlessly, dialoguing with one another. Truly fascinating and quite topical given our time-obsessed spliced digital world.

And finally, some swings, and a piece of cloth – anything special? The elements of Ann Hamilton’s ‘The Event of a Thread’ didn’t sound like much but when you enter the triumphant space of The Armory, you enter a different world. I was transported by her work. A sparse space filled with a field of swings was the beginning. The childhood activity (where ARE the swings for adults these days?) transports, and a room separated by a large billowing white curtain, moving in response to the swings brings ethereality to another level.  On one end a table with two readers reading endless scrolls surrounded by caged pigeons. On the other end a table with a solitary woman writing, while a circular mirror above her head pivots sporadically. All these players wear felt cloaks like medieval riding coats. There was something fascinating in the construction of this world and my immersion within it. Ethereal and mysterious, thinking of the threads that connect everyone and everything on so many levels. Here too, as in ‘Shadow Monsters’, both young and old wandered about, swung and lay beneath the billowing curtain. 

All the artworks I saw seemed to activate the idea of play, whether reconfiguring filmic details, extrapolating shadow-play, or constructing a fantastical world.  Marvelous to see such a spirit alive in the world of art.

Photos by Ewa Monika Zebrowski