Years ago I bought an art print from a poster fair that would visit my university a couple of times a year. I was so drawn to this painting, which featured a woman sitting at what looked to be a Parisian cafe, a pensive expression on her face, quill and half-glass of wine on her table. I loved everything about this piece: the setting, the colours, the subject matter, the painter’s technique. I didn’t even look up the artist for some time, or explore the historical context of the work (which is strange, considering I was an Art History major). It spoke to me, and that was enough.
The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949)
I felt an affinity with this woman, and I wanted to be her, but her world and life were so far away from mine. This painting created a tension within me. Of admiring, of relating…but also feeling disconnected. Not having her life. Not being able to do what she was doing.
That painting remained on my bedroom wall for one or two years, but then I rolled it up and stashed it away somewhere. I eventually left university life and moved back to my hometown, and I suppose I had other posters to mount.
The thing is, I could never get rid of that print. Not only that, I made sure it stayed in as pristine condition as possible. In my many bouts of clearing out clutter over the years, whenever I would come upon that poster, I would feel happy to have re-discovered it, and made sure it did not get thrown out with the rest. And I would think….I need to mount that someday. But there it went, back with the other items not currently in use, tucked away safely in storage.
I moved a couple weeks ago, subletting my friend’s place while she is travelling for the next few months. This space is teeny tiny, so I have brought minimal possessions with me. But for some reason, I had to bring the print.
Why now? What shifted so that I knew, without hesitation, that she was coming with me this time? And where was this impulse before?
It’s more than just arbitrary. I look at that painting now, and the tension is gone. I look at her now, and I relate with understanding. She is in a different time, in a different place. She doesn’t have a coffee by her side, nor a laptop in front of her. But I can relate to her process. I can relate to her expression. I know what’s going on in her head.
The lady in the painting is me.