Pianist Simon Tedeschi, 37, is married to Loribelle Spirovski, 28, a visual artist and art teacher who has twice been a finalist in the Archibald Prize. Having a partner who understands performance anxiety helps them both.
SIMON: I am very introverted and, to this day, a lot of my friendships are virtual. I saw my relationship with Loribelle occupying similar terrain. In 2015 she'd posted on Facebook a very dark painting of a young male. I thought it was extraordinary; it reminded me of Shostakovich's music. I was intrigued.
I contacted her and before long our discussions became deeper. The actual physical meeting had an air of inevitability. I invited Loribelle and her friend to this retro-style jazz gig, which is not my usual thing. When I saw her, my first thought, naturally, was how beautiful she was, and how young. We gave each other a big hug.
Before Loribelle I was a serial monogamist, not because I wanted to be but because I'm difficult, intense and prone to moroseness. But with Loribelle, I had an overwhelming feeling of meeting someone remarkable. She moved in very early in the relationship and I was just floating around the house, practising a bit, but she went straight to work. Her work ethic is extraordinary; she goads me into action.
Loribelle seems to get me. Our connection has softened me, made me more compassionate. She says that very little I do annoys her, which I find a miracle. I'm very impractical, I can't fix a f … ing thing, can barely put in a light globe – and Loribelle grew up with an engineer dad! So Loribelle works it out, and I do her tax. We're not your stereotypical couple.
I'd never considered marriage, but I think underneath every cynic is a disappointed romantic. I needed a very specific set of variables and amazingly, it happened. Which is not to say Loribelle is perfect, she's perfectly imperfect.
Our wedding last year was a strange out-of-body experience. We don't like being the centre of attention and were both glad when we could get back to the real thing, which is sitting in trackies watching The IT Crowd.
I'd never considered marriage, but I think underneath every cynic is a disappointed romantic.
Anxiety has played a huge part in my life and performing is anxiety-producing but I've long accepted it's who I am. I'm a performer who takes it so seriously it's sometimes not healthy. The life of a concert pianist is a very lonely one, but Loribelle tours with me and I do my utmost to ensure there are art supplies on tour. Having her there changes everything.
She's done some very dark portraits of me. She sees me, which is an amazing feeling because when you walk on stage part of it is a lie, because no matter how you're feeling, you have to deliver a performance.
In my world there's so much noise and I long for silence, and she also loves silence. I don't think as humans we have one true self, but with Loribelle I'm certainly a very contented one.
LORIBELLE: I studied Cherry Hood's Archibald portrait of Simon at school, so when I met him I realised who he was, but we first met online. Simon is a really funny guy, a lot of our conversation was very inappropriate jokes – we were both thinking it was a friendship so we could push each other in terms of humour. Then he said, "You should come to a gig."
We started out as two artists who loved each other's work and then it grew into something more. There was an instant chemistry. But the painting that had sparked his interest in me was a portrait of my then partner. After meeting Simon, I had to make a decision. It was a difficult time but it was the best decision.
Simon's mum had a place on the NSW north coast and he offered for me to fly up from Sydney, meet his mum and relax. While there we were sitting by the creek and I told him I didn't want to say it was the happiest I'd ever been, but it was. I knew there was something really special about this person.
None of my friends are like Simon: most are Asian, my best friend is Serbian. His world of classical music – his family is Jewish – is totally different to the Filipino/Serbian/Macedonian culture I grew up in. It was a shock. But his family are such warm, loving people, I've never felt I wasn't part of the family.
We'd never done anything remotely physical together but he knew I used to go kayaking, so he organised it. I was used to solo kayaking, and [sharing a two-person kayak] we never got in the right rhythm: I wasn't in the right headspace and was impatient to get to the beach. When we got there, there was a beautiful boat, two beach chairs and an umbrella. I thought it belonged to a rich bloke with a girl on a date, so when Simon asked me to go closer, I refused. Eventually he demanded I come and look, and I saw on the sand, "Marry me Loribelle." I'd thought I didn't want to get married, but I clearly did. I cried, said yes, we had sushi and I cried some more.
I've painted Simon maybe 30 times. He loves it when I experiment and distort his face to the point you can hardly recognise him. That's been an important trigger for my development as an artist, because I used to paint photo-realistically. I found I really enjoyed painting him, I'd work faster and my skill developed, a different style developed. It felt like I was painting myself, because we spend so much time together.
The thing I've really learnt from Simon is to accept everything. Teaching triggers anxiety for me because you have to be a certain person, an authoritarian persona. Simon understands that and helps me realise that it's okay if I feel like that; before then I'd always felt so much guilt that I was weak. Exchanging stories about things we've found difficult in our lives has made me feel I don't have to hide it, I can embrace it. Anxiety has been a huge theme in my art.
For both of us, our work is so personal. Watching each other perform, in our own different ways, it's amazing knowing that the other person knows where that comes from. He understands me better than anyone.
Most Viewed in Entertainment
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter