Love synergy


Zohra Aly

"We do mix business with pleasure": Alison and Michael.

"We do mix business with pleasure": Alison and Michael. Photo: Paul Harris

Alison & Michael

Alison Kubler, 42, is a freelance curator and writer married to Michael Zavros, 41, an artist.

Alison: "Michael and I met when we were both finding our feet in the arts. I was doing three jobs, and Mike was trying to be an artist. It's a tough and tricky industry and it's good to have a partner who understands the vagaries of it and that artistic personality.

Michael is very hard-working and in the studio seven days a week. The artistic process is not like a day job. It's your work and your life. You don't switch off, even when you're on holiday.


Our children [Phoebe, 10, Olympia, 8, and Leo, 4] are the release for us. Michael's a very hands-on dad, though he always says how having to take the kids to choir at 7am is really annoying. But it gets him out of the studio and gives his day structure. Artists can be dreamy and forgetful; I'm the one with the big yearly wall planner with everything in it; I also put reminders into his phone. Mostly, we laugh about it; even if I'm interstate, he still asks me what time he needs to pick up the kids!

We do mix business with pleasure and love seeing exhibitions together. When I first met Mike I was like, 'Wow! What a unique individual.' It's nice that I still feel that way after all this time."

Michael: "When we first met, Alison had this ability to describe something in art that I found challenging, and make me love it. She has a wonderful way of opening up a new world for you. I was drawn to her outgoing nature and her ability to put people at ease. Plus she was - and still is - very striking-looking!

Work-wise, we're not competitive but complementary. Certainly, I ask Alison for advice. When I'm doing paintings of Phoebe, our daughter, I always discuss things with Alison. She brings fresh eyes and is good at taking the temperature of things. If she feels it's good and right, then I have faith in it.

During a stint in New York last year, I had seven weeks by myself. I did enjoy that solo time more than I thought I would. My first instinct is still to do everything together as a family, though.

Watching TV once the kids are in bed is a happy place for us to unwind together at the end of the day.

Alison is so embracing of my family's [Greek Cypriot] culture. I'm drawn to things which are different from my family and upbringing; maybe that's why we're drawn to each other.

Drew & Naomi


Photo: James Brickwood

Drew Livingston, 30, and Naomi Livingston, 33, are both actors and musicians.

Drew: "Naomi and I met at the Blue Mountains Musical Society. Her voice and performance on stage told me straight away that I had to get on board wherever that train was heading!

There's a certain insanity in pursuing a career in the arts. There are far more sensible things you can do than become an actor: society says, 'Have stability and a pay cheque coming.' It helps to have a partner in crime who understands why you're doing it.

We have a rule that we don't give each other criticism until it's asked for. Sometimes, you take things a little bit more personally when it's from your spouse. The thing is that Naomi knows when I'm cheating and taking short cuts and she tells me, 'Yeah, you can do that better than you were doing it.'

We have our disagreements. One big one is when Naomi wants to stay home and I want to hit the town. But mostly we try to keep the drama on stage.

Being apart for work is by far the hardest part, especially now we have a child [Edie, 2], but we have parents and extended family who support us.

Having similar aspirations in life helps, but I just really, really like Naomi. I love hanging out with her and picking her brain and sharing my life with her."

Naomi: "It sounds corny, but when I first saw Drew, something told me he was someone I should get to know. And he played the guitar, which every girl knows is extremely attractive.

Drew is an extrovert and I am an introvert, but it balances us out. At a party, it really helps me to know that there's someone there who's my safety net, and I can kind of hook onto his arm and ride on his coat-tails. At times, he doesn't read when I've had enough; he'll keep on socialising. That's when I have to give him a little squeeze of the hand, and then he clues in pretty quickly.

Lately, we've been like ships in the night with the different hours we are working, and this can be very difficult. It's important for us to have quality time together, so sometimes it means saying no to other things to keep that balance.

We write music together a lot and are always keeping each other inspired. If we have a couple of hours on a day off together, then we're going, 'Oh, I had this idea, can we have a play?' I know it seems like work, but we love it."

Nicholas & Gemma


Photo: Joshua Morris

Nicholas Chambers, 40, is a curator at the Art Gallery of NSW. He is married to Gemma Smith, 36, a visual artist.

Nicholas: "The art world is a pretty small place and I got to know Gemma at the same time as I got to know her work. At the time, her exquisite monochrome paintings were smart, playful, fussy in a good way, disarmingly beautiful and nuanced in a way that's beyond words - just like her!

Gem is often the first person with whom I'll float an idea for an exhibition and I regularly get to see her works underway in her studio. It's incredibly useful to get feedback from each other as part of the process of curating a show or producing an artwork. Clashes of opinion are probably the most helpful thing.

We relocated for about three years to Pittsburgh for my last job, curating at the Andy Warhol Museum. When our son Alex was born two years ago, I took some time off and our families came over to help us, too. It was a lovely time.

Cooking together after work, even if it's quite late, is something we enjoy outside the arts. Saturday mornings start with a trip to the markets timed to tie in with the meat report on ABC radio, and we have a massive library of cookbooks; our current favourites are by Fergus Henderson and Nigel Slater."

Gemma: "I met Nick when I was 21 and he struck me as charismatic and so interesting. I used to joke that he'd describe an artwork I hadn't seen and it would sound far more interesting than when I finally saw it in real life!

We've lived in different cities through Nick's work. While we were in the States, I moved my studio to downtown Pittsburgh and worked locally as well as making artwork for my Sydney gallery.

Nick and I will often talk ideas through. I'll invite him to my studio to see the work when I'm at a crossroads, or towards the completion of a body of work - he is a very supportive influence.

We totally understand what the other does all day. My job is multifaceted and consecutive projects often differ, involving erratic demands on my time and head space. Nick is a partner who thoroughly understands the pressures artists face generally.

One of my favourite things is talking through with Nick what we've seen when travelling for shows or exhibitions. It's lovely being with someone who understands all the facets of your life."