Back up – what about italy?

Oh yeah….I went to Italy for a week with friends from Canada. We stayed 20 minutes from Florence in a guest house called Villa Le Tori. 7 days in Tuscany, in July was brave to say the least. It was hot and Florence was hotter. Consistently, the best food I have had in a long time. Everyone we met was warm and welcoming. Including the mosquitoes. 

Some highlights – 

the colors. 

the food. 

the landscape 

last but not least, the architecture. 

…feeling most alive / new work…

One year ago I moved to France.

One year ago I left Canada.

One year ago life seemed full of promise and opportunity. A dream was coming true, I was starting fresh in place that meant discovery was around every corner. Or at least behind every baguette…

But then, as life does, promise turns into reality and baguettes turn into fat if you don’t exercise. So you have to make a decision to stop eating so many baguettes. And then you have to figure out how to go forward in this new field of reality.

joannajohnstonsud_m-5

My reality is one without my dad. And now I am slowly losing my mother to dementia. These things have taken from me. They have pulled at my ability to be whole. Now, I am away from home and I find one way to pull myself back together is through my camera.

joannajohnstonleron

BOOM!

August 17, 2015  5:30pm the canon exploded and from that moment on I was hooked.

I have learned so much in the past year about the history behind this incredible tradition which originated in the Camargue. My newest project, SUD_ is going to follow several manades based in and around where I live.

Beyond the village fete and the spectacle created by running bulls through towns, there is a closely knit community of riders, photographers, spectators and ranchers that keep this way of life alive. Most interesting is the number of women now riding, in what was previously male dominated work.

joannajohnstonaubanel

This project will grow in depth over time. It is not a shift away from architecture but a shift into looking deeply at the place I live. There is great joy in the moment, in the anticipation of that which might be wild, or dangerous and potentially life threatening. Not many things today make my heart beat as quickly as these riders on their horses chasing these bulls.

That is the initial draw. The long story, the rich story, is the behind those moments but they all lead to that rush where you feel most alive.

 

Paper lanterns in the night…happy bastille day.

To kick off the celebration of Bastille Day today, July 14th, we went to a dinner last night in our village. It was a gathering of the community that began with small glasses of rosè as we talked with friends around the picnic tables set out for families to eat. 

Dinner was a simple but complete affair. Beef stew with olives, rice, and salad with a raspberry tart with jam and blue cheese for dessert. Of course there were plenty of baguettes. Everyone went into the community center to get the hot food on red trays. Red wine was brought to the table in plastic pitchers. As we all sat down with our trays, the bread was broken and we said our “bon appetit’s”.

After dinner, as the sun was setting, the children lined up at the city hall (Mairie) to each receive a paper lantern with a candle.

Each child carefully held the bamboo sticks with their lantern. And while most managed quite well, there were some little fires which fizzled out quickly, only to be replaced by another lit one, this time with grand mére holding the stick. 

Our friends visiting from Toronto were even able to get in on the action.

After the lanterns were all lit, we walked in procession to the old soccer field just on the outskirts of town. 

It was wonderful to walk through the crisp air under a half moon with our dinner party companions murmuring quietly in French while the children all carefully carried their lanterns in the dark night. 

Music filled the air as we arrived. A dark mournful chant – something Ravel like – we all felt like it was a real march – to what I wasn’t sure. 

As it turns out, it was an amazing fireworks display, coordinated to a set list operatic classical music.

As the fireworks exploded in in their triumphant last gasps, they looked like galaxies falling down towards our breathless upturned faces. They quickly faded into darkness, and the stars, constant, in spite of the drama below shone steadily with the moon to light our way home.

It is at times like last night, that I am so thankful to be here. 

Were you there too dad? Is it you who taught me this? To be joyful in life’s small moments of strange beauty?  I miss you.

Happy Bastille Day.  

Urban Rising – A show at the Shangri-la Residences

Last week I flew to Toronto for a group show organised by Art Collectif at the Shangri-la Residences in conjunction with Chestnut Park Realty. I was the solo photographer in a group of 7 painters. 

Installation day was hectic but gratifying. The pieces seemed to be made for the living room they were hanging in. 

These two pieces were delivered to their new owners on Tuesday. These two editions are now sold out!

The views from the 65th floor were stunning. 

it started with windows…

…I couldn’t stop searching for the right one. Of course it was all about the perfect angle and a great juxtaposition of graphics. Then I realized they were few and far between and to practice the art of window reflections was inconsistent to say the least.

This just happened the other day after picking up morning croissants and made me realize how much has changed since my window days.

image

(Another way to achieve this kind of image is to collage single images together with photoshop. But I am not technically savvy enough to spend hours making these collages.)

My life changed the day I was digging, through the menu of my Nikon, and I spotted it. “Multiple Exposure”.  I couldn’t believe it. I had discovered a way to construct my own photo collages using the subject matter of my design.  I didn’t have to wait for these 3 dimensional stories to appear. They were mine now, to write.

For me they add a complexity to the visual story bringing greater depth to the image. The challenge of composing through trial and error, which is a way of seeking through seeing, is thrilling.

image

Architecture is more than building materials and form. It is touched by time, the environment and by us. It is in a constant feedback loop, creating and recreating context, atmosphere and space.

image

These images were created using my smartphone. I can now play with these ideas while I am on the go. It allows me to test ideas and practice compositions without have to bring my big camera. I decided to start another instagram account that will only be my phone double exposures. @jo_dbl_expo is my new idea park for these tests. They don’t always work but sometimes geometry just seems to play right into the lens….

image

My new favourite season

It used to be summer. It used to be the only season that had colour lasting longer than a week. And nights that were warm. It was the warm nights I loved the most. It was never spring. Spring was too short, in Toronto, if you blinked you would miss it. Suddenly there was no snow and blossoms appeared and then a rain storm would take them out. And summer started.

Here, spring lingers, warmth slowly creeping in and around rivers, forests, stone buildings. Like the wind, it swirls around the damp and the cold and pushes out winter, creating new space for life to grow. Fruit trees delicately began to leaf and then bloom. The rose bushes sprang to life in our yard, the jasmine began to bloom and fill the air with scent. The fields of wheat began to blow in the wind with poppies and thistles dotting the landscape. It is a feast for the senses. The light has also changed dramatically. Bright blue day time skies filled sometimes with crispy white clouds, and a coolish wind, make for sun that is hot and shade that is gorgeous. The sunrises are more confident and the sunsets have new pinks and purples that went away in the winter. It is a joy to see these changes.

So now. Spring. You have my heart.

JoannaJohnston-4
Wheat fields near Collias, France
JoannaJohnston-5
Poppy, near Collias, France
JoannaJohnston-3
Wheat and poppies near Collias, France.
JoannaJohnston-2
Poppy field near Collias, France

Hope to be changed.

Lately I have been in a lot of museums. They are not my favourite places to spend time. They are usually crowded and tedious. The walking kills me. The mindless conversations drain me. I go because I think I should. And of course most people like them. And when you travel with people you do the things they like to do. Given the choice, I would pick the streets and buildings of a city before its museums.

Of course, there are the few times when you are in a museum and that special thing happens. That moment when you see something that makes you feel more alive than the minute before, a flame ignites in your mind and you can see the world differently for that brief time. The experience of art will do this and it will change you. And this is what pulls me back. That hope to be changed.

Processed with VSCO with 10 preset
Snakes and Butterflies, Otto Marseus van Schrieck, The Louvre
Processed with VSCO with 10 preset
Detail from Tenture de la dame a la Licorne, Musée de Cluny.
Processed with VSCO with 4 preset
Arles View from the Wheat Fields – Vincent van Gogh, Musée Rodin