I want to share with you a wonderful piece by writer Christine Rose, who bought the mixed-media painting Frida Cagnolino by Kate Milsom from us at Battersea Affordable Art Fair a few years ago, which she published on her blog last summer. Although I’ve been slow to post this, the sentiment is particularly resonant for now, when once again we find ourselves confined and joy is in short supply.

These times have taught us to seek and appreciate happiness and wonder in our immediate surroundings and in the small things, from walking in nature in our gardens and parks to learning a new piece on the piano, from baking a delicious cake to reading an inspiring book, from treating yourself to a new face cream to gazing at a favourite painting on your wall, lost in the narrative you have imagined for it.

Christine passionately describes the pleasure she derives from owning a piece of original art. She fell in love with the painting at first sight and has developed a deep, emotional connection with the subject. It brings her joy on a daily basis.

Here is a condensed version of Christine’s post (you can read her full text here):

“I’m about to turn down the next aisle, and all of a sudden Mother Mary catches my eye. I am drawn like electricity to this burst of red crazy colour, and a blue cloaked magnetic woman just looking at me. I move towards this glorious work, basking in it for a while. I think I knew I was going to buy this thing from the very first second I laid eyes on it. I felt like Mona Lisa was looking into my soul but at the same time reminding me that life was a gas.

Why do I love this piece of art so? Let me count the ways. Well, it manages to be subversive, heretical, beautiful, chaotic, surprising, highly weird, spontaneous, and deeply joyful all at the same time. I love the singularity of ‘her’ – this figure; and I realise now that she represents this beatific mother figure – with infinite love, understanding and kindness – that I’ve been searching for my whole life. Even now as I look at the picture, hanging on the wall to the left of my bed, it’s her blue, blue eyes I must meet first. I love her wild and free relationship to animals; she has an owl on her head but manages to not only retain her dignity, but somehow embrace and be in partnership with this wild gesture. She’s composed, wholly and entirely a woman, but humble and at one with nature and her environment. This woman is all knowing; entirely free; a true punk. And I get to hang out with her every day.

I love the unspoken bond between her and her beloved dog (a Bichon Frise?). ‘Cagnolino’ means ‘lapdog’ in Italian. They both challenge the viewer, inviting us to the party. I like to think the post-Covid world we’re being asked to form is something akin to this; we have a chance now to choose punk joy and reverence to wild nature over stifling rules and dank conformity.

I love the fact that it’s a collage – bits and pieces from here and there brought together in one woman’s determined imagination.

I love its revolutionary impulse. I love how it reminds me to be free and brave and enjoy the moment; and that when things get really hairy and scary, as they are prone to do from time to time, that there will always and forever be butterflies and surfinias throbbing into life. And if you’re really lucky, you might just get an owl landing on your head, bestowing upon you a scratchy blessing with its razor claws. And I love the fact that I am the only person in the whole world who has this treasure.

It is of great comfort that this piece will last through my lifetime and maybe beyond. And actually, considering all the hours that went into her making, considering that I may have, in my small way, contributed to an independent artist continuing her craft; and considering all the hours I’ve spent with Frida Cagnolino’s loving gaze on me, well… she was worth every penny and much, much more.”

Kate Milsom, 'Frida Cagnolino', oil and mixed media on gesso board, 45 x 38 cm
Kate Milsom, 'Frida Cagnolino', oil and mixed media on gesso board, 45 x 38 cm