Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading | Art as Therapy










De Botton, Alain and Armstrong, John: Art as Therapy, Phaidon, London 2013


This book was published a few years ago, but I only bought it last month and am enjoying it immensely. You've got to love a book on the purpose of art that has The Tiger Who Came to Tea as one of its examples.

De Botton and Armstrong highlight the ability of art to rebalance and to restore our frail, incomplete selves, and this book is a call for a radical rethink about how museums and galleries present art to the public, focusing on the psychological, therapeutic function of art. When de Botton applied this thinking to an actual museum, he was ridiculed for it, but I have a soft spot for his work and his empathy and don't agree with the majority of the criticism levelled against him. I admit to being a bit wary after all the hype, both positive and negative, but I was positively surprised.

The part of me that worries at times about being so obsessed with tidying was reassured to find Ben Nicholson's abstract piece used as an example of a work of art that embodies the 'pleasure of organising things' (p.54), showing a kinship with 'quiet domestic tasks' and similar acts of 'happy concentration', which should be taken more seriously. Likewise, a beautiful Chardin honours and celebrates the ordinary and 'recognises the worth of a modest moment' (p.56), thus encouraging us to be kinder towards ourselves and enabling us to make the best of what we have. 

There are so many instances of recognition when reading this book, and the works discussed include several of my favourite pieces (Las Meninas!). It even takes in interior decoration, suggesting that rather than showing off, our concern with what we place in our homes involves 'a far more interesting and human process', using objects 'to communicate our identities to the world', as in, '[this] crockery [...] is like my deepest self' (p.43). The writers are aware of how exaggerated this might seem, but there is so much truth and humanity in these observations, and they are able to articulate and distill feelings we all have and voice our non-verbal, often visceral responses to visual art.

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Brain Pickings has an excellent article about the book.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Three









1. A recent commission for a concert hall that has been renamed after this lady (they kindly gave me a photo-op backdrop banner with my drawing on it). Apparently no photos of her as an adult exist bar one small photograph in a newspaper article, hence the request for a portrait based on that image.

2. Evening light in the studio and the beginning of the 'layout wall' for a new book, a collaboration with John. The studio is one of the colder rooms in the house, and many times during the winter I would move my work to the kitchen table, but in the last few weeks it has become the space I spend most of my time. I have been working in and on the studio (the walls still need painting, but it is much more homely now) - more on this soon.

3. My cousin made the envelope for a wedding card out of this, and I put it in a frame, as I love the sentiment the title evokes and it is a beautiful piece of music. In my head it is a synonym for 'Kinderspiel', the figurative meaning of which is 'piece of cake'. Along with my tiny Laughing Buddha and other pieces it serves as a reminder to lighten up and not take life so seriously - a good word to look at when heading out the door.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Natural skincare | Hydration, soaps








On the one hand I am becoming more and more minimalist when it comes to beauty products (and pretty much everything else), on the other hand I have added eye serum to my routine...

The hotel we stayed in in London had one single bottle of organic mint body/hair wash in the shower, and I loved the simplicity of it - nothing else cluttering up the shower. I used to take a bottle of Dr Bronner's castile soap with me when travelling, which is for everything from brushing your teeth to washing the dog and apparently even for removing your eye make-up. My sister has started using it as shampoo, and I got a large bottle (the lavender scent) to have by the kitchen sink for washing dishes (as that lovely lemon balm one we had seems to have been discontinued at our supermarket) and will decant a bit into a bottle for the bathroom.

I have combination skin and still get minor breakouts at age 33 (nearly 34), but my skin can also get dry. When I ran out of my Weleda rose moisturiser I thought I would try something else.

I have been giving Green Angel products as gifts, as they are a great Irish company and stocked in the shop at the bottom of our road, so I can shop local. I am halfway through the moisturiser, which contains two of my favourite essential oils, neroli and jasmine. Since using this I haven't had any problems with dry skin, and my skin is clearer as well.

As for the eye serum, this is from another Irish company. I am a bit sceptical when it comes to eye products, as products for the face often do the job just as well (and when using olive oil for removing eye make-up, you are simultaneously caring for the area around the eyes), but I thought I'd give this a go, as I like the ritual and this has a cooling roller. I have only used it for about two weeks, but already can see and feel some improvement, with plumper skin that doesn't feel tight. It can leave a bit of a residue that looks like dried tears (or maybe I used too much), but as long as you blend your moisturiser or concealer into the edge, it becomes invisible.

I love that both these products come in glass instead of plastic, though would advise not to store them at a height it in a bathroom with a tiled floor - the cap of the serum shattered into a million pieces when it fell out of the cabinet.

I didn't own any lip balm for the last two years, at least. At home, when I thought of it, I would apply coconut oil or honey and dry-brush with a toothbrush to exfoliate my lips, and then during the day I would leave them alone or apply lipstick or gloss. But recently I must have neglected them, and I thought it would be handy to have some lip balm in my bag, so I bought the Trilogy one. It works really well, and I love mint in lip products - some energising aromatherapy right under my nose.

And finally, soaps. I know having the Dr Bronner's liquid soap ought to cover that area (another minimalism fail), but I don't have that many bottles I can decant into, and I like using old-fashioned solid pieces of soap. These are as local as it gets, and they don't dry out your skin; I can even use them on my face (one thing I no longer buy is facial wash). They also remain solid, unlike a lot of natural soaps that turn into mush, and they scent the bathroom nicely.

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