September 23rd, 2016

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September 23rd, 2016

This last week I spent a couple of days in Vancouver with a friend. To get to downtown Van from my tiny island requires two boats, a bus and a sky train. It feels like a lot of work and quite a lot of expense, so I don’t do it very often. Once there, it’s a case of jamming as much good stuff into 24 hours as possible. This time I got to see some music and some art, and do a little bit of shopping. We got to stay in a flea-bag hotel and (miraculously) not get eaten by bedbugs and we had croissants and coffee for breakfast in a grungy bakery where a man called us “mademoiselle” and the waitress dressed like Amélie. I think we managed to talk non-stop for 24 hours (maybe there were three hours of sleep and we did stop for the music – mostly) and we walked for miles and miles, and not always in the rain. Now we are back with our families, and knuckling down to work. She on a novel and I on the illustrations for the next Truly Tan (I just saw the new cover, back from the designer and it is the best yet – yay Steph!). We are (mostly) remembering the reasons why we are grateful to live where we do… even so, a little Autumnal break in the city was just what I needed.


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Listening and watching:

Sigur Rós, live:  We caught the Icelandic atmospheric post-rock band at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre last Sunday. If you still have a chance to purchase a ticket for one of Sigur Rós’s North American shows, I urge you to do so. I think it is quite possibly one of the best shows I have ever seen. As my concert-viewing companion said to me between songs, (she who had not heard any Sigur Rós before this week), “This is transcendental!”. She actually said that, and she’s not even a hippy. And she was right. And I’m not even a hippy. And, um… Sigur Rós with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra next April? What I wouldn’t give…

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Seeing:

Picasso: The Artist and His Muses at the Vancouver Art Gallery, until October 2: How I wanted to love this exhibition. I have been looking forward to it all Summer and when I finally got to walk through, this last rainy Monday morning, I just wanted to lie on the gallery’s wooden floor and cry. Sounds a little dramatic, sure, and I was probably needing some more sleep (see above) or maybe even just a sandwich, but wandering by each of the six “muse” sections, and reading about this great master and his relationship to women was tough work. Violent, brutish, misogynistic, manipulative… When each woman’s story is presented alongside the artwork she inspired, it is impossible to separate the man/husband/lover from the great artist.

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The emotional gut-punch I experienced upon seeing the beautiful piece Femme Au Collier Jaune, 1949 (above) kind of sums up the difficulty of the show for me. Seeing the familiar painting from across the gallery, my breath was quite literally taken away. Oh the line work, the freedom of the effortless expression, the passion, the complete mastery of colour and composition. I could feel myself swooning at its sheer beauty.  My gallery companion whispered to me sardonically “read the description”.  The paragraph pinned to the wall beside the painting described an intense argument between the artist and his muse, François Gilot, which led to him holding a cigarette to her cheek to “brand” her. For the next little while, each of his portraits of Gilot featured this mark on her cheek. Knowing this made it very hard to feel anything but deep sadness. Again and again we were forced to question the sacrifices (but not his) made for great art.

Curator Katherine Beisiegal has worked to present each woman’s story and her role in Picasso’s life so that it is an integral part of the exhibition but, sadly, it is probably much easier to enjoy Picasso’s work when you know far less about these relationships.  As my gallery companion said, it could easily be renamed Picasso and his Poor Muses. I would have loved to see the inclusion of art works by the women themselves; the work of François Gilot – painter and critic – could have been fantastic hanging alongside Picasso’s portraits and her story.

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For example, François Gilot’s Self Portrait (Woman in the Wind) from 1944.

A wider approach to the idea of a “muse” could also have been interesting. What about the idea of muse/muse rather than muse/master? Gertrude Stein, for example, would have made a welcome addition as her relationship with Picasso, while not sexual or subordinate, was without doubt significant. Coulds and woulds aside, this is an important exhibition, but do not necessarily expect to be uplifted or inspired.

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Coveting

I am coveting these socks so hard: My only problem would be narrowing down my selection as every single pair of socks produced by Bonne Maison is exquisite. I had a hard time choosing just four designs to post here. I follow them on Instagram where they post inspiration and lifestyle shots and also on Facebook for all the sock news. I think I am a little obsessed.

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Watching:

The consistently brilliant Australian comedy-drama, RakeThe first three seasons, now available on Netflix, are so incredibly good – topped only by season four (which I am happy to lend you on DVD if you happen to know me personally). Complex, hilarious, incredibly warm and at times heart breaking…. Sydney barrister Cleaver Greene, played by Australian legend Richard Roxburgh, will quickly become one of your favourite tv anti-heroes ever. With its laid-back, laconic humour and quirky characters, it is a perfect antidote for this homesick Aussie.
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Delighting:

Five things and none of them are about Brad and Angelina: 
1) Cute tv show alert:  On Netflix is Lovesick – recently renamed but previously known as Scrotal Recall. Actually, I’m not sure which name is worse, but it’s a fun British rom-com series totally worth watching. The only downside is that there are so few episodes. The good news is that there’s another season coming out in November.

2) Politics, even: I liked this on Boing BoingTo find Hillary Clinton likable, we must learn to view women as complex beings.

3) Collecting the World: Inside the Smithsonian: Such an interesting video! “The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has over 144 million different objects in its collections. A sample of these collections are on display to the public, but 99 percent of the Smithsonian’s treasures remain behind the scenes.”

4) Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists: My nose is currently in this book, which I tracked down via inter-library loan, thanks to this article on Brainpickings.

5) They keep making me smile: The kids from Stranger Things warming up the crowd before the Emmys – which I like almost as much as their spot on Tonight Live.

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I have had some really, really nice emails about the newsletter. Thank you so much for your comments, thoughts, links and feedback. I always welcome correspondence. It helps to hear what you think. And, as always, do tell your friends if you are enjoying The Small Batch List.

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard
xo

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