Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Painter

His eyes are dangerous.

Like all hard men he is scared. Making enemies that will hurt him, he is peeping over the wall; worrying about his head, thinking will it stay there…

A criminal looking out for the police.

Wary of this street, the city, his own little world, a whole being is concentrated into a look; his gaze two gun barrels staring at some woman walking by… Bang! Bang!

This is what happens when you step out of the darkness.

A woman splattered across an old canvas - the whites of our painter’s eyes - the wall is soaked with the lurid colour of his crime.

He his hiding in fear from the relatives out for revenge.

Peering into the no man’s land between art and life he thinks of the many casualties; of his studios, those graveyards filled with coffins.

He remembers the old times, recalls the daring runs…

Oh to sink back into the night. But the night won’t let you. Out! Out! you must go. And take the pistols with you; on every street a ready victim; they are waiting… 

For a few years he had escaped: into abstraction.

Now he must leave that comfortable apartment. Once more go out into the city. He is shaking; worry evaporates on his hot brow.

He hasn’t killed anyone for years. It is, he thinks, too high a price for art.

New York has been good to him. A prophet and a star; he is a friend of the famous. What a wonderful party! it has been. Now he looks at himself in the mirror: his unkept hair - the hooks of some greasy cog -  those bloodshot eyes, the finger cocked with a cigarette; that bottle, its friendly glass… It is a warning, he knows: an artist’s work must be protected from the artist’s life; the shipwreck of a bohemian night.

When Phillip Guston peeps over the wall Kilroy says “hi!”, from the other side of the alley. 

Bang! Bang! His eyes transfixed, like a hare before a shotgun. Bang! Bang! The blood on the wall his old subjects; his American friends, the twentieth century transcendentalists.

Guston is afraid. Of his new vision. 

He is frightened of his fellow painters. What will they say? What names call his cartoons? He knows already. They will not like them; throwing their paint, taking potshots, smashing the glass, shattering this bottle… He ducks his head under the abuse flying through the air: “figures!” “comics!?” “junk”.

Out he creeps into the night.

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