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Two Artists’ Live/Work Space in Seaton Village

Two creative types with very different work habits – and a toddler – live harmoniously in one space

By Iris Benaroia
Photography by Naomi Finlay

Marriage has its challenges – the uncapped toothpaste, the mood swings – which explains the guilty joy most people feel when decamping to the office. Cindy Blažević, a photo-based artist, and Pascal Paquette, a painter with a street and studio practice, don’t have that luxury, or even similar work styles. “He’s loud, always has music on,” Blažević says. “I’m quiet, academic in my approach.”

The visual artists live, create and raise a toddler under one roof – an informal, bookish Seaton Village Victorian with a converted garage that serves as their light-filled studio. Quarters are tight, but the two have their method well honed. When Paquette is done dirtying up the studio walls, he paints over his varicoloured mess so Blažević can do her thing in a serene white space.

“Still, Pascal’s medium encroaches on mine,” says Blažević, who came up with the idea of building a shed to store his gear – innumerable cans of Farrow & Ball, paint trays and brushes. “Cindy has mad Tetris-like skills organizing small spaces,” adds Paquette.

The duo works collaboratively, too, preferring a meeting of the minds to what Blažević describes as “the narrative of the lone artist.” Their multi-disciplinary studio, L’État C’est Nous, bridges their commercial and fine art ventures, with projects everywhere from Bloor Street to the Balkans.

A cheeky fight-the-system attitude (both in art and real life) informs their decor: a Krispy Kreme painting by Paquette presides over the dining room. It’s a leftover from a project that addressed gentrification, in which he gaudily papered over windows of soon-to-be-closed galleries. The kitchen backsplash features another past project, one that explored the hidden life of pill-poppers. Blažević shot a panoply of psychotropic drugs, blew each up to “roughly the size of a guinea pig” and had them printed onto 8-by-16-inch ceramic tiles. “

For the living room, she designed simple Baltic birch plywood bookcases – fabricated by friends Day & Night Woodworking and casually curated with favourite titles. Much of their home offers a fun, arbitrary mix of friends’ artwork. Paquette’s contribution here is the wild coffee table: “It looked too boring, so I Rauschenberged it.”

Theirs is the ultimate artists’ home, with a balance of clean white spaces and colourful inspiration. And a pristine, airy studio just 10 steps from the house to boot. Pristine, of course, until Paquette cranks his music and, as Blažević puts it, “drags in bricks recovered from demolished buildings he previously painted, which he then cleans, paints and turns into bookends.” She clearly finds such antics endearing. In a marriage, you would have to.

See Blažević’s photographs of the Kingston Penitentiary at York University’s Osgoode Hall. On to November 20.

Paquette joins three artists in exhibiting at Public Objects, Private Frames. The show, held in Toronto’s Canadian Heritage Regional Office, opens in December. His work will also be included in Something to Thing About, a federal election-themed show on display at 1518 Dundas St W from Sep 18-Oct 18.

Originally published in our Fall 2015 issue as Artists in Residence.

Categories: Spaces
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