My friend, Charles and I are in the habit of strolling along the Victoria Embankment some evenings.
Tonight he said, “Damn it, Alex? Aren’t you walking rather quickly? I’m getting winded just trying to keep up with you!”
I stopped and said, “So sorry! I’m a bit out of sorts tonight, thinking about another artist—perhaps you’ve heard of him—Rinaldo, the conceptual artist.”
My friend replied, “Hmmm…no, the name doesn’t ring a bell, I’m afraid.”
“Consider yourself lucky!”
“You’re obviously annoyed…”
“And with good reason. He’s been a thorn in my side for years!”
Lighting his pipe, he chuckled, “Are you going to tell me your story or not? It sounds like one with many dark twists and turns into…” He shrugged and gave me a wry smile. “You can stop glaring at me…”
I wondered at the anger stirring in me. Of course, I had been gazing at the Tate Modern Gallery lit up on the other side of the Thames. That is where the argument with Rinaldo broke out. Vivid details of that disastrous encounter paraded in my mind in a snidely accusatory fashion.
I said, “It began at a cocktail reception at the Tate. Rinaldo and I were two of five artists short-listed for the Turner Prize offered by the gallery each year. Usually it’s awarded to a conceptual artist although any contemporary artist may enter.”
As his entry, Rinaldo had constructed a ditch down the middle of the Turbine Room of the gallery. It started out looking like a massive crack in the floor. The Destiny of War—he called it. Ridiculous for an artist! On both sides of this trench, with its barbwire fence, were flung piles old clothing, children’s toys—guns, model tanks, knives and swords—all spattered with red paint.
No doubt, he intended to create the effect of a blood bath. I found one dismembered doll to be a particularly tasteless touch. In my opinion, the message of this so-called piece of conceptual art was both obvious and trite. Doesn’t everyone understand that war is pointlessly destructive and stupid? We don’t need an immense installation to tell us that!
My friend chuckled again. “I can see why you’re angry! You paint beautiful moonlit scenes which are utterly sublime. The light is magnificent—just like glimpsing the beyond! To be compared with his nonsense leaves one gasping for sanity.”
I looked at Charles closely. He seemed sincere. You’ll see my entry above called the Hay Wagon. Charles was, in fact, right. Those who like my work praise it for its light. Sometimes I see an ethereal light gracing this everyday world and I strive to express it on the canvas. I am constantly in search of my muse.
“Why thank you! So very kind of you,” I mumbled. “As an artist, I cannot tolerate Rinaldo’s nonsense. I’m not usually so bad-tempered, but we got into a nasty and very public spat that night. I’m rarely quite so vindictive but, at this reception, I actually set about trying to publicly humiliate him.”
“Good lord, Alex. That’s not at all like you! What on earth did you say?””
“Well…I confess I was baiting him. But how can he seriously claim to be any kind of artist?”
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“I told him that his work was childish and amateurish. I implied that it was…” I broke off. I had gone too far in seeking to justify myself. “Rinaldo is seldom at a loss for words. He always has a sharp retort, but that night he could think of nothing to refute my words and so, he stormed out of the gallery in front of this rather sizeable crowd. I was brutal in my humiliation of him!”
My friend shrugged.
I sighed heavily. “I didn’t realize I was making a true enemy of him. I’ve come to regret that.”
“That sounds like yet another story. In fact a novel of stories!”
“When Rinaldo passed by me on the way out, I have to say I have never seen such a profound look of hatred on anyone’s face.”
Charles grinned. “Oh ho! Far more to this than meets the eye. You still haven’t told me what you said except for the “childish” and “amateurish” part.”
Shaking my head, I sank to a nearby bench. “Afterward, I was shocked at my behaviour.” I sighed and said, “I really shouldn’t get into it now.”
“Listen Alex, I do hope all of this is written down somewhere.” He suppressed a grin. “Makes a fabulous story!”
“Oh indeed! The entire scene at the Tate Modern is in The Drawing Lesson which you can find right here at the carousel below.”
“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself, old chap. It sounds as if the man deserved whatever embarrassment you meted out.”
“But can you believe it? The man has played so many stupid, mindless tricks or pranks on me just to mock me and my art.” I found myself getting breathless. “Once he led me on a ridiculous hunt for him throughout Venice and capped it off with making a video designed to denigrate my work! It’s gone viral on the internet. Here! You can see it on my phone.”
Charles peered at the screen of my mobile.
“And just to insult me further, the video is such a crude, slapdash effort on his part! He has the nerve to call it art!” I pounded my fist on a nearby statue of some war hero. “And…You’ll see in the video that he has scribbled glasses and a goatee on a photograph of me. He thinks it’s clever to imitate the artist Marcel Duchamp.”
My friend looked at me blankly.
“Duchamp is the artist considered to be the grandfather of conceptual art. His notoriety comes from a stupid idea of drawing a mustache on a copy of the Mona Lisa!”
Charles watched the film clip and then said, “Obviously Alex, you’ve gotten under his skin. Keep up the good work. I think he deserves it!”
“That’s why I treated him so vilely at the Tate.”
My friend gave me a curious glance. “Alex! Are you really a character in a novel?”
“Oh yes, but as you can see, I stand before you in the flesh and blood. Do I not eat? Do I not drink, sleep and talk?”
“Indeed you do, Alex. But now I must get home. Good night.” He shook my hand and, with a curt nod of his head, walked away.
As he disappeared into the fog, I called after him, “Another evening, Charles?”
He did not answer but simply waved at me over his shoulder.
I headed back to my studio which overlooks the Embankment. From here, you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral designed by the architect, Christopher Wren, rising up in defiance of the Tate Modern. What an incredible celebration of beauty and architectural harmony! What would Wren make of the present day irreparable divide in the art world? And of those who seek aesthetics in art?
You will find all the novels in the carousel below. The Osgoode Trilogy is about murder and fraud, love and forgiveness in the world of the law. I was inspired by my thirty years of law practice to write about lawyer, Harry Jenkins.
The Trilogy of Remembrance is about the glitter and glamour in the shadows of the art world.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in its entirety right here Wattpad.com