By: Leila Vignozzi
I was in the National Gallery the other day, and while I was wandering around I had some sort of deep connection with some of the paintings. I was in the Renaissance section, which is mainly composed of Italian works, the majority of which are from Florence, the city where I come from. I found myself in front of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin of the rocks and felt strange somehow, like we were sharing some sort of mutual experience.
It’s almost been two months since I moved to London and only now is life starting to feel real. I was always felt as though I was living in a movie. I don’t know how to explain it. Imagine you wake up one morning and everything is different from how it used to be. Imagine men are wearing skirts and ladies have beards, children wearing black suits, talking about politics and grownups playing with toys in the middle of Trafalgar Square. No, that doesn’t explain the feeling. Okay, just try to imagine you wake up one morning and everything is absolutely the same as usual but you don’t feel part of it. You’re on the tube, or in Oxford Street and it feels like you’re just watching it all, without taking part. Imagine you talk to people and it doesn’t feel like they’re actually talking to you, it’s not you when you smoke your British tobacco, when you have scrambled eggs for breakfast or scan your Oyster card at the station. It’s not you while you enter your University Campus and it’s not you when people ask you to describe yourself and you start saying all of those things that seemed to describe you once, but that now feel…so unfitting. And if this isn’t enough to give a portrait of this feeling, try to imagine having the need to stare at your figure in the mirror every morning, moving your hand to check if the imagine reflected is matching every movement, just to be sure that the person you see is actually you. It’s strange, isn’t it? And you find yourself living in some kind of reality in between your past at home, which is still present, and this new person you’re trying to know, with such a different personality.
I remember the first time I felt like myself here. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and I’d spent it with these two new friends on the bed, eating Pringles and playing music. It wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like home. We all experience this; it doesn’t matter if you come from Paris, Abu Dhabi, Cornwall, or just around the corner.
So, coming back to the paintings, I felt like that Madonna in the portrait was actually feeling like me. The canvases were all cheated, brought in another city, a place where they weren’t meant to be. But probably they did. A place where their colours, instead of conveying everyday life, gave the feeling of something exotic. Staring at the eyes of that woman, painted, still, tired, I saw the longing for an aged story. I saw the affection for a new life, rejected in the first moment. We love everything we take part in. We grow fond to every instant of life, even if brief. Every breath we take stays within us, motionless, as a memory. And with time, with distance, it becomes better in our minds, as good wine.
In two weeks I’ll be finally at home and after all, I’m having this strange feeling that somehow I’ll miss this.