The past year has seen many people across the world grapple with a very specific type of loss; the sadness of a trip not taken, the mourning of exploring new cultures, the yearning for experiences beyond the anomie of the supermarket. As that strong desire for, and impulse to, wander the world fell prey to the pandemic in a turbulent 2020, we seemed at one point to be surging toward an anticipatory dystopia. Who were we without travel? What do we have to look forward to when there is no international holiday booked for summer?
Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve been commissioning artists, painters and illustrators from different cities all over the world to paint a picture of what they see out their windows – either real or imaginary. Most artists have been confined to these cities during the global lockdowns, and all have a close connection to the place they have illustrated. Each artist has a “GRAZIA At Home City Guide” perched on their window sill, insider guides to the cities you need to visit and recollections of moments past in these nooks of the world; how they drank in the palaces, how they wandered through the parks and how they ate and ate and ate. There’s recommendations too – local dishes, phrases and lessons – so you can start imagining your own itinerary from the comfort of your own home. Today, we’re headed to Paris.
The cliché of Paris is its magnificence. Yes, it lives up to many of its burgeoning stereotypes – opulent, trés chic, grumpy (sometimes) – and the indubitable notion of elegance and luxury. Its opulence, its style, even its pomposity, render the city a destination almost everyone falls in love with.
But take a local and the lens looks different. For illustrator and graphic artist Mez Clark, the magic of the French capital lays less in its luxury and more in its romance, whimsy and ability to spark creativity.
“Find a corner in a café, order a coffee and sit down and take in the atmosphere. Watch the world go by for a while,” she suggests of the “pretty picture postcard” she calls home. “During ‘le confinement’ [read: lockdown] I worked on a couple of illustration projects. Art and creativity is a massive part of Paris’s culture, so sketching and writing always brings me close to the feeling of living that ‘Bohemian Parisian life’.”
For her window illustration, Clark has worked her usual “playful” aesthetic in with some humour and love. “I remember the business of Paris; the rushing around, the excitement. There was also so many things to see and even more places to be.” She says.
Thinking back to her younger years, Clark’s fondest memory is running from one movie theatre to the Opera.
“One winter’s evening, my sister, a friend and I saw Harry Potter at the ciné before going to the Opéra to see Swan Lake,” Clark says. “In between, we enjoyed a rather cheesy fondue. We were living the ‘foyer de jeune fille’ which was a property run by Spanish nuns. They would lock up at a certain time of night so had to run home so as not to be shut out. It was a super fun night.”
When the world opens up and you do return to Paris, take the scene less travelled. “Hot cheese and egg crêpes are my favourite,” Clark says. “They are cheap, warm and perfectly portable so you can continue walking around the city. Equally croissants or any French pastries are a must. Oh and don’t forget the oreilletes.”
After. Long day of walking, Clark suggests getting wine or beers and sitting along Canal Saint-Martin with friends. After a year inside, the mind truly boggles at such a thought.
Follow Mez Clark @mez.clark and add a little piece of Paris to your living room with the below items; a sketchbook, a french press and a screening of swan lake.
Smythson Black Portobello Sketchbook, via Ssense.com. shop now
Tom Dixon Silver Brew Cafetiere, 750 mL, via Ssense.com. shop now
stream “Swan Lake” now on Amazon Prime, performed by russia’s bolshoi ballet. stream here.