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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 2, No. 1, 2003

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by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


This piece was originally published and is reprinted with the permission of CBC ArtsCanada.



The painter Juan Manuel Sanchez at work:

Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich are Argentine painters who live in Vancouver. Recently my wife Rosemary became suspicious, as I have been seeing them a lot.

She asked me, "Is it Nora?"

Nora is a very attractive 50-year-old woman. Juan is 72 and reminds me of a paunchy Picasso.

I told her that she was partly right - I was in love. But I had to add that I was in love with Juan, who is the brother I never had, the father I no longer have and, best of all, the friend with whom I can discuss art at any hour.

I too am an Argentine who lives in Vancouver. I have been a magazine photographer for 28 years, but for much of that time I was unwilling to think of myself as an artist. That changed gradually, but the change was not truly complete until I got to know Juan and Nora.

For years I had shunned my fellow expatriates in my effort to become Canadian. Then four years ago, one of my daughters said she was going to get married some day soon and she expected the first dance with me to be a tango. I joined an Argentine tango group, where I met Nora and Juan. Juan was a hopeless dancer and they soon dropped out. I found a sudden longing for everything Argentine.

A year later, I had a chance meeting with another Argentine, Linda Lorenzo, a beautiful woman who I wanted to make the subject of images that would reflect my interest in exploring my memories of the country I had left.

Because I now wanted to enjoy the company of Argentines, on a lark I called Nora and Juan to join me. They were delighted to accept. We worked together in our studios - they would sketch, I would take photographs. I soon learned that I had to try some patience with my instant art. They needed more time to sketch and I couldn't simply tell the model to move to the next pose.

And I learned much more than just patience. Because Juan speaks no English, my Argentine Spanish came back. So did my appreciation of my heritage. We indulged in the Argentine habit of sipping a mate while listening to Piazzolla or old tangos. We exchanged nostalgic tales of rosier times in Buenos Aires. We went to see Saura's film Goya en Burdeos twice. We discussed its merits over coffee. I plundered the public library for books on Goya.

In the last few years, at least half of the books I have read are in Spanish, many lent to me by Juan. When I spotted a Spanish edition of Louis de Bernieres's Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the UBC bookstore, I bought it for Juan. He placed a copy of Tomas Mann's La Montaña Magica in my hand and told me to read it. I am.

Recently, I have been working with both Juan and Nora on what we call colaboraciones. Back in the studio we compare sketches and photographs of our model. Juan and Nora pick some of my photos or I suggest some. Sections of some of these photos are then "completed" with Juan or Nora's line drawings.

I find it thrilling to sign these colaboraciones right next to Juan and Nora. Thanks to them, I have the confidence to admit I am an artist.

Sometimes when I get fussy at home, I am no longer surprised when Rosemary suggests, "Why don't you go to Juan and Nora's for a mate?"


Editors Note: UBC (University of British Columbia) is the last of the "collaborations" (colaboraciones) done by the artist Juan Manuel Sánchez and the photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward to mark the arrival of the year 2003.

To find more about the artist and photographer or to get in touch with either of them, please write to to the attention of Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal - Arts Editor.











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