Best Friends Forever: Daisy de Villeneuve And Natasha Law
Catty, vampiric, demanding, and demented. These are the women illustrator Daisy de Villeneuve and portraitist Natasha Law (sister of Jude) depict in their first show together, No Love Lost, which opens tomorrow through May 2 with a private view this evening at Eleven in London. A rogues’ gallery of girls to avoid, de Villeneuve and Law’s show uses imaginary portraits, scribbled notebook pages, and accessories to illustrate the worst types of female friends. Style.com caught up with the artists—still good mates, it seems, after working together—in advance of the show to discuss relationships gone sour, mourning them, and letting them go.
I assume from the nature of the project that you two are old friends. Am I right?
Natasha Law: We met about seven 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.
What inspired the collaboration?
DV: 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. Therefore, we had a starting point.
What was the practical nature of your collaboration on these works?
DV: We have met up a few times to discuss the initial ideas and also sent e-mails back and 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 e-mails and conversation.
How similar have your experiences with flawed female friendships been?
DV: 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 would be our concept for the show. It was actually really funny to hear our stories combined.
NL: There’s the odd variation, but I think we all have our battle scars to compare. Whenever we meet there’s usually a chunk of time swapping horror stories—situations we’ve found ourselves in, people we have in common. There’s a handful of mad, bad, difficult-to-know characters in everyone’s lives, I’m sure.
How do you compare the mourning process over a damaged or destroyed friendship to dealing with a romantic breakup?
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 traveled 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 anymore 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 breakups that compare to this, but they weren’t the ones when you’re in love.
DV: With a destroyed friendship, it’s completely over and I make that clear. 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 after a couple of years, I’ll suddenly get a phone call, postcard, or an e-mail 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 pushover 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.
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 that 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.
DV: It’s easier as you get older. You become stronger and wiser. I made a decision a couple of 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.