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Autumn in Paris; winter in Prague; spring in Amsterdam. It’s summer so here I am. I didn’t know if you would be here but I came anyway.
When I fell out of love with you – I say this as though to fall in love is an actual physical movement – it was not you I missed. It was the life that we’d created together. Our love didn’t grow as the one entity though, we had our illusion of love and we had our affairs with those misconceptions.
[private]Now that you’re gone, I should embrace the space and become. I should. Behold the new me!
There is a possibility that you will be in our flat. A remote one. As the Latin proverb says: nothing dries sooner than tears.
‘What’s the space either side of the canvas saying?’
‘That, perhaps, the gallery owner should’ve exhibited more of my work.’
‘Ha! Perhaps I would’ve if your work was more exciting.’
‘My work’s original!’
‘The surface – perhaps.’
‘A year ago you wouldn’t have displayed a single portrait.’
‘A year ago I wasn’t your teacher…’
‘And you weren’t my student, let’s not forget that.’
‘…and without my tutelage you’d be a stagnant artist.’
‘The masses buy what the masses understand.’
‘All art is relative to the reality you’re living in. Isn’t that what you forced me to believe?’
‘Yes. But, you still lack…something.’
‘My art’s beautiful!’
‘You want your art to be beautiful. But first, you must learn to see the beauty in all that you deem worthy of copying.’
We had met years ago at the gallery. My partner accepted your portfolio, I wouldn’t have.
Your art is not innovative.
The gallery was founded on the principle of the avant-garde. The gallery is the future not the past. Your work was archaic. It reflected nothing of the fractured and unstable society that we live in. It failed to engage with the conceptual nature of realism. It questioned nothing. Your work is like tracing paper. Your work speaks to me on mute. I can’t see the canvas for the history.
I asked why you wanted to be exhibited with us. You claimed it was to educate me. I laughed.
We argued on the papier-mâché staircase that led nowhere. I suspected you of reading the art section of the newspapers at your feet and reciting them back to me.
You ate the cheese sandwich from the pedestal, shoving it into your mouth around your scathing words. Art! Ha! I should’ve seen then how much you liked playing the impoverished artist.
We explored each other’s bodies on the cardboard box bed, the duvet cover made from scraps of underwear donated by prostitutes.
Without love, we are all prostitutes! I told you to put your quill away. Or at the very least, write on my body and not in your notebook.
I would be your first innovative project.
I listened to your laughter echoing off the gallery walls.
We resolved nothing.
You claimed that that was the start of our relationship. How wrong you were. It was the middle.
Fingers interlocked we ran to the Pompidou Centre. There was an exhibition I wanted to show you.
If I’d seen what was on your inside, on the outside, back then, would I still have gone through the door with you?
There was an abundance of space inside of you. I wanted to inhabit that space. In that moment, I was contented with the warmth of your breath for it had passed your heart.
A heart I want to crush in my palm.
A mosaic of your heart hangs on the wall.
A mosaic of your heart is my welcome mat.
On rainy days, I bake a Lamb’s heart pie for one.
Sheet of paper: blank; cream; with a dirty smudge in the corner. Meaning? Top to bottom a line is drawn. Back at the top a circle. Imperfect circle. Meaning? Third of the way down, two diagonal lines are drawn either side of the central line. Two more lines, slightly longer than the previous ones, are drawn at the bottom. It’s you. I draw me next to you. Link our hands and pencil a smile to my face.
My key still worked in the lock. I guess you haven’t been back then. Or, you simply don’t care.
Are you running from me or am I waiting for you? Perhaps we haven’t even met yet.
We live in the moment: that was the limit of your abstract thinking . Moments are fleeting. It’s the space either side of the moment that I’m concerned with.
Thinking. Pen hovers. Ideas, thoughts, notions, memories and nothing – all waiting to be displayed in solid form. Strike a match. Stoke the embers. Ash. Have a bash, give it a go, nothing ventured. Sparks fly. Synapses fire – no connection. The pen sticks on the paper. Inspiration seeps away, if that’s what you would call it.
I’ll let A be innovative; this A is happy being…
Remember what I said to you that night? I meant it all, even the parts where you disagreed. I loved that you were not me. Joined at the hip, conjoined, constructed as a single entity when we wanted – when passion took over, when we sought comfort in each other. I was a shoe-horn for most of our relationship. I was the cookie cutter. Does it matter what I was? Whoever I was then, I’m not now.
That night, please remember what I said to you. We gazed upon the starry night: back to back; side by side; you underneath and me on top. A cube does not fit into a cylinder. You picked one of the stars out of the sky for me. It wasn’t gold, it wasn’t silver, not even bronze. I cried. Effortlessly the tears fell. I remember you said: A for effort.
‘Stop eating the fruit.’
‘The art you mean.’
‘It’s an apple.’
‘Nothing’s just an apple. Put it back. Exactly where you got it from.’
‘Because I’ve created the composition.’
‘By placing the apple just so. How clever.’
‘I am the artist. You are the model.’
‘What is the apple then?’
The safety pin dates back to the 14th century B.C. It was Mycenaean in origin. This race of people advanced through conquests – unlike the Minoans, who were traders. It was likely the latter bartered. Which one did you see yourself as? The safety pin was re-invented in 1849 by Walter Hunt, an American. I tried re-invention. You held me together, but pins bend and spring free. You scratched me. I bled. I taped the bandage.
It is raining outside. The night is warm. The open window is letting in the smells of the street below but all I can smell is you. I’m wrapped in the sheet. All that separates the sheet from my naked body is a layer of dust – your dead skin cells, your organic matter. I lick my lips. Inside of me – twinned – you course through my body with the pumping of my blood.
Organic – byword.
A proverbial expression.
The Persian proverb says: a drowning man is not troubled by rain.
A strand of your hair is on the windowsill. How long has it been there? I stroke it. When you painted you used to cover your hair with a scarf. Hair is used in forensic toxicology, especially for substance misuse, abuse, tell the truth and nothing but the truth. You hated to be analysed. How long was it before I left your system? I guess it depends how long the hair had been lying here. Time is a curve, a square, the outline of a dog. So does that mean you haven’t gone?
The first safety razor was invented in the late 18th century by a Frenchman. The safety razor was patented in America by brothers a hundred years later. A yellow safety razor was forgotten in your haste to leave. It lies forgotten in the corner of the shower basin. The blades still had a hair stuck between them. I measured it.
Shaving me was the only chore you did. Although, you claimed it was a lover’s act. Afterwards we would always make love or fuck. On uninspired days we had sex.
Sprawled on the bed, limbs entwined, the sweat slowly evaporating from our bodies you read to me; in your fashion. You only read what interested you, the rest was omitted. It was the only bohemian side to your character.
The book propped against my shoulder, your legs crossed at the ankle
keeping our warmth trapped between your thighs
bent over and dipped fingers
steam curled up over naked a gleam to already flushed skin.
circled slim ankle and glided delicate
skin in and then opening up palm cupped
Stroking nail down
sweet touch swollen wet lips before
hand over hip
massaged dew skin in rhythmic movements
over the flat of
a low moan vibrated Then
You read until your throat was dry. A glass of water was sought in the bathroom. I watched the play of your calf muscles. Flinging my arm out, I sought one more touch. I disturbed the air around me.
The book lies forgotten. Something else has caught your attention. It was always a story half finished with you I soon discovered. What chapter did I get up to?
I nicked myself. You took the shaving gel so I had to use a slither of soap. The rash burned.
‘Haven’t we done this already?’
‘So it’s not the same apple.’
‘No. I ate the last one.’
‘But it’s the same picture.’
‘The light‘s different.’
‘Ah. Persephone is holding an apple.’
‘Were they on offer?’
Fidelity. Fidelity is a gift bestowed upon the one we choose to give ourselves to. The cells in our body regenerate. I’m not one fixed being. Tick tock, tick tock, I degenerate inside of you. So soon we’re at half-life. Atom turnover, it might be a myth. I’m not positive, yet.
I don’t know why I came back here. The seasons follow each other; that does not mean I must follow routine; that does not mean I will follow you. Is there a part of me that expects you to follow? I was always a better teacher than I was the student. You had an aptitude for both. But then you were always good at imitating. On dull days, I convince myself that your love was just a simulation. On dark days, I fear that you imitated me.
I would talk of our love as an entity. You would talk of it as an embodiment, generally of someone who was dead.
I leave the flat.
Returning I find you in the studio painting. Patting your knee, you tell me where you would like me to sit. I paw you and settle down. You pet me.
‘What’s this?’ I ask.
‘My homework. And my mark is … ’ You have painted a framed portrait of Oscar Wilde, inside a framed portrait of Oscar Wilde, inside a framed portrait of Oscar Wilde. You started small in the middle of the canvas and have radiated out, painting over the edges of the frame.
‘What is the title?’ I ask.
‘E.J Mullins: All art is useless.’
‘I like this. I’ll exhibit this.’
You stand, brushing me off your lap.Strolling over to the open window, you throw the painting out. The drop of three storeys smashes the frame so that it’s bent at odd angles. The canvas is split right through the right eye of one Oscar Wilde.
‘I definitely want to exhibit this!’
‘Let’s go out instead.’ Throwing your scarf onto the windowsill, you grab two bananas from the bowl and search for your hat.
‘Where are we going?’ I ask.
‘To Père Lachaise Cemetery.’
‘How morbid. Why?’ I ask.
‘Oscar Wilde is buried there. We’ll exhume the body and exhibit that.’
On our return, we find two dogs playing tug of war with the canvas. This makes you laugh heartily.
Pont Neuf. We stand on the bridge and gaze at the banks of the river Seine. I grow bored and move on. You remain where you are, sketching.
Artists are two a penny in Paris. Although you did earn enough money at Montmartre to pay for lunch.
‘You’re painting yet another bowl of fruit. How interesting.’
‘I guess you think the bowl of fruit should be the artwork?’
‘The fruit is not durable, the canvas is.’
‘It’s just a pastiche.’
‘It’s my perception – my reality – of the bowl of fruit.’
‘E.J Mullins: A Bowl of Fruit Number 113.’
‘Take the fruit and put it in your gallery. You can have 20% if it sells. If it doesn’t bring it back as I want to bake a pie for dinner.’
Sea pearls have a higher value than freshwater pearls. Salt burns. A thirst starts. You quench it but deposit more salt on your departure. Crystalline form – specks of calcium carbonate build to make something so perfect. Iridescent, smooth with a depth of colour I can’t fathom. I sink on your absence; descend down, down,
Minutiae:, you loved that word: how it sounded; how it was formed; how I failed to see the importance. This infinitesimal hair, you would say as explanation, this tiny teeny weeny hair that stands proud from your spine. That hair is you. It is an embodiment of…
From the soft tissue the hard gemstone forms. Admired, inspired, desired.
Object of beauty.
Immortalized on the canvas but what of your mind? Is there a place for me, deep inside of you, in those regions of you that aren’t prey to atom turnover? Store me in a box, a drawer, that small corner covered in dust at the very recesses of your spherical world. But, I’m a cube.
That curve of my spine, the long indent that scores my body, separating me into halves, you sought great pleasure in that place – that line drawn from top to bottom. The part of me I couldn’t see. Facing forward we never saw the same.
Whilst searching for the tea caddy in the kitchen cupboard I found your leather notebook. The pages had been torn out and all that remained was a crumpled leaflet for your exhibition in Berlin. Your handwriting was on the back. I read aloud to the empty room. I read silently. I stared at the words. I ran my finger over them like Braille, but it wasn’t Braille. I sniffed.
cessation of sensation suggestion
art – ist of the
of the mind
on the wall
cessation of inspiration of exploration of
Inside the tea caddy I find a torn piece of watercolour paper. It says: IOU. The exhibition was a success. I didn’t go. Friends tell me that you were commissioned to paint the portrait of …
When a relationship ends it loses its energy. We ran around with our butterfly nets trying to catch as many of the scattered atoms as we could. I wanted something of my self back. On inspection, I had more of you than I did of me. November 8th: that’s the day we ended; that’s my birthday; that day in 1793 the Louvre opened. Aphrodite accroupie. How you loved this statue. I informed you that many artists of the Hellenistic period copied the original. Infinite numbers of imitations and variations.
‘In the Roman civilization she was known as Venus,’ we’re informed by an American wearing a black baseball cap with an Eiffel Tower print on it.
‘Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus,’ his companion adds.
‘Aphrodite is often associated with apples and pomegranates,’ he continues much to the wide-eyed wonder of his groupies. ‘And we all know what that signifies.’
A closed mouth catches no flies – so the Italian proverb goes.
‘Sugar. I need more sugar.’ You come up behind me, hands encircling. You nuzzle my neck like some animal bestowing affection. I let you lick the spoon.
‘It won’t taste right.’
‘I’m trying to bake you a perfect cake.’
‘Just toss in whatever we have. I’ll eat it.’
‘What do we have?’
‘Merlot. Brie. Braeburns. Lots of Braeburns.’ Your hands moved higher.
‘I need more than that.’
‘We have all we need. I need to paint you. Sit…’
‘I want to bake. Go get some sugar.’ And so you did. You went next door and there you found warmth. There the bed sheets were washed and the air freshener wasn’t turpentine. Your belly was full and drunk on food, on wine and on someone else; you evolved. Or did you regress?
I saw you wandering around the yard on early mornings, surveying your kingdom, as the breakfast bacon cooked. A call pierced the air and you went running in. That was how the domestic you was created. Ever the bohemian, I went in search of an apple for petit déjeuner.[/private]