Natasha Law, Cold Shoulders, 2009, Gloss paint on aluminium 49 x 49 in / 125 x 125 cm
Daisy de Villeneuve and Natasha Law: No Love Lost at Eleven
11 Eccleston Street
London, SW1W 9LX
April 1st through May 2nd, 2009
To outsiders, female friendships may seem like Sex-in-the-City-style sisterhood. But every woman knows that her sweet, supportive sisters can too easily turn into emotional succubae. That understanding animates illustrator, designer and writer Daisy de Villeneuve and artist Natasha Law (sister of Jude). In their debut collaboration, they demonstrate their own creative and personal compatibility through a series of imaginary portraits, objects, notebooks and stories illustrating the worst types of female friends.
Catty, vampiric, demanding or demented, the personalities that de Villeneuve and Law depict make up a rogues gallery of the kind of girls to avoid. Though de Villeneuve and Law are known for their stylish and charming images of women and fashion, here they teach from experience about the hidden dangers behind some siren calls for female solidarity and tell us about the life lessons they've learned from friendships gone sour.
Ana Finel Honigman: I assume from the nature of the project that you two are dear, old friends. Am I right?
Natasha Law: We met about 7 years ago. If I remember correctly, I staggered over at the end of an event at the V+A for Versace to say hi to my friend, the photographer Merry Brownfield, and she introduced me to Daisy. I knew and loved her work, and probably said as much. We met soon after for lunch and later she involved me in a group show she was curating at New York's Rivington Arms gallery called Lie Back and Think of England. We've been friends ever since.
AFH: What inspired the collaboration?
Daisy de Villeneuve: Natasha draws girls and I draw a lot of girls' portraits. Plus I wrote and illustrated a book about toxic girls called, What Goes Around Comes Around (published by Chronicle books). Therefore, we had a starting point.
AFH: What was the practical nature of your collaboration on these works?
DdeV: We have met up a few times to discuss the initial ideas & also sent emails back & forth. I always love reading Natasha's stories.
NL: We talked around the subject and would go away and probably drift off on our separate tangents with the subject, worry at it a while and meet again to see where we were at. There are a few things we want to share as themes for drawings, but largely it's been swapping ideas and stories in emails and conversation.
AFH: How similar have been your experiences with flawed female friendships?
DdeV: I think we've had similar experiences, plus we both know the same certain characters. I think that's one reason why we decided on this subject. Natasha and I work with a lot of the same people and there was one girl in particular that was so crazy and nuts that I was curious to know how Natasha got on with her as I knew they were friends. Turned out they weren't so close anymore. I think it was through discussing these sorts of people that we decided that that would be our concept for the show. It was actually really funny to hear our stories combined.
NL: There's the odd variation but think we all have our battle scars to compare! Whenever we meet there usually a chunk of time swapping horror stories - situations we've found ourselves in, got into, people we have in common. There's a handful of mad, bad difficult-to-know characters in everyone's lives I'm sure.
Daisy de Villeneuve, from left: No Love Lost, 2009 India ink and ink on paper 11 x 9 in / 30 x 22 cm, Girl, 2009 India ink on paper 22 x 15 in / 57 x 39 cm , Coco Paris, 2009 India ink and ink on paper 10 x 7 in / 26 x 18 cm
AFH: How do you compare the mourning process over a damaged or destroyed friendship to dealing with a romantic break-up?
NL: There have only ever been a couple of friendships that have reached the point where I wanted to end them but I can safely say that they'd travelled to a place where there wasn't much left to mourn. I mainly had a huge sense relief at not having them in my life any more and a bit of guilt at my part in the deterioration. Plus, I felt some shock at having been willing to pay the price of being disliked. Really friendships aren't meant to get that demoralizing are they? Maybe there are romantic break-ups that compare to this but they weren't the ones when you're in love.
DdeV: I think it is very different. With a destroyed friendship, it's completely over and I make that clear. I have stated just that to the person by literally saying, "This friendship is over." With a romantic break-up it's harder as sex has been involved and I find it difficult to confront a man. The pain will be of heartbreak and it will linger for longer. With a damaged friendship I can cut it off with no emotion involved, I'll get angry at myself for putting the time and energy into that friendship, but once it's over, it's over. With a romance, there's always the possibility that the relationship could rekindle at a later date, which it may or may not, but there's the ambiguity of it and I'll pretty much always remain on some level connected to them even if it's after a few years we'll end up being friends later down the line. The guys always reconnect with me, well . . . not always, but most of the time. Even after a couple of years, I'll suddenly get a phone call, post card or an email as if nothing ever happened, when little do they know that I spent hours crying over them. Then we'll hang out, have lunch or tea and then all of a sudden they're back in my life again. Maybe I'm a push-over but I like to think of it as not holding a grudge. Ironically, my ex-boyfriend thinks that I'm too nice to these guys and doesn't know why I even bother.
AFH: What worries you most when meeting new potential friends now?
NL: Lovely thing about making friends is that you never expect to, and when it happens it's already in motion before you realize it, so there's never any time to get self-conscious about it. The biggest worry or effort I have to put in nowadays is to find time that is needed; to get to go out, meet up, get to things that are important to them. If I do
worry it's that I'm not going to be able to manage it and will let friends down.
DdeV: I worry that I'm too open & let people into my life too quickly. I feel that I should be more guarded.
AFH: Have your strategies of dealing with problematic friends changed dramatically as you've both gotten older?
NL: It took getting older to ever be able to tackle it - partly having kids, who really did have a claim to my time and attention, partly the sense life is too short and time too precious and it was getting hard enough to still see the friends I wanted to see that made me, finally, ruthless.
DdeV: It's easier as you get older. You become stronger and wiser. I made a decision a couple years before I turned 30, that before I reached that age I would get rid of all destructive people from my life. I did just that. Though at present I do have a couple of people that constantly email and call me, but they're more work-related acquaintances and not friends. I feel guilty for ignoring people and feel I need to always respond out of politeness whatever the situation. I have to figure out a strategy of fading them out.
Ana Finel Honigman is a Berlin-based critic. She writes about contemporary art and fashion for magazines including Artforum.com, Art in America, V, TANK, Art Journal, Whitewall, Dazed & Confused, Saatchi Online, Style.com, Dazeddigital.com, British Vogue, Interview and the New York Times's Style section. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Ana has completed a Masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She also teaches a contemporary art course for NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development students. You can read her series Ana Finel Honigman Presents.
view all articles from this author