You are a lady of many facets: a painter, chef, collector, traveller, designer, urban farmer. Which role do you enjoy the most?
The most satisfying endeavor is painting. It is the most abstract intellectual pursuit, which results in a tangible and emotional understanding of the world. If that sounds dry, it isn’t. The interaction of harmonies, differences, form, color, line and movement, creates joy and beauty. If you are an artist, you probably can design anything. I live in a visual world, and that talent allows me to design. I understand structure because the basis of painting is composition. In architectural design, not only are you creating a beautiful environment, but structurally and practically you are always solving problems.
Thinking quickly on my feet, is something I enjoy in both painting and in design, architectural construction and even in creating recipes. Paintings are essentially flat. Painting is a study of plasticity. Playing with spatial reality and all the perspectives, even flattened ones, are helpful in creating 3D space in architectural design.
How did you get into the process of farming?
The first seed I planted, as a child of 4, bore string beans. The excitement of a seed bearing a vegetable, fruit or flower has never left me. A seed contains the potential of a whole growing universe. It’s vitality of flourishing and changing is exhilarating. When I bought my house, it was surrounded by some very boring gardens. It was mostly grass, which I took no pleasure in either looking at or maintaining. I stripped out the grass and mundane shrubbery to have a blank canvas create my garden. I design and plant my garden as I compose my paintings. It is a combination of control and serendipity.
There are over 120 edibles in my garden. I leave some unharvested so passersby can enjoy seeing the plants in all their stages of development.
Do your plantations act as an inspiration for your paintings?
I enjoy the garden as it changes day to day. Every morning I rush to capture the ephemeral in recipes. Some things I pick are in the garden are new and only there for a few days. I create a recipe, cook it, present it beautifully and then preserve that special moment through photography for my cookbook.
Brief Bio: Vivan Reiss
Vivian Reiss has pursued a creative life to its fullest. An accomplished painter, she has shown her work at over 50 one-woman exhibitions around the world, including The Gardiner Museum (Toronto), the Prince Takamado Gallery (Tokyo), and at the Echigo Tsumari Trienniel (Japan). In addition to painting, Vivian is an architectural designer with over sixty projects in Toronto, which have been featured in publications globally. She is an accomplished businesswoman in acquiring and managing a portfolio of real estate in Toronto and is currently renovating an historic church in Atlanta, Georgia.