Writing About Art

Entry by: jaguar

1st June 2015

This picture – “Peaches on a Stone Slab” – will do. Rachel settles herself on the stone bench in front of it. It looks peaceful enough yet, somehow, it provokes her. She wants to stay uninvolved, closed to its beauty but, already, it has oozed into her senses. She wanted to be intelligent about it. She snorts and hopes the guy at the far end of the gallery didn’t hear.

She jabs impatiently at her tablet while she tries to wrestle the painting in front of her into her small, spidered words. The description she types darts away and hides from the meaning she intended. The adjectives run for the dark corners of her feelings. They go and retrieve places she tries to forget she’d ever been. At her time of life there’s an awful lot more to forget than she wants to remember.

She shakes her head clearer and stares, her narrow neck bent to one side. The painting has no frame, it isn’t symmetrical and the perspective is conventional for a still life. She can't think what to say about that. What is it trying to tell her? That the peach in the middle would taste delicious.

She could bite into it in her imagination the same way thousands of people must have done. Everyone tasting exactly the same thing at the same moment of their lives. A shared moment that hangs in the air like a eternal raindrop, the moment when they all first saw this painting.

She can feel the taste jump her tongue. She can sense the juice run down her wrists, chest, the insides of her knees and ankles, pooling in her pulse points. Rachel stands and hums the feeling as lyrics begin to rise from the music. Fat, burnished apricots, sweet intensity, the slightest hint of fur's warm brush, the colour of flames. She finally has it – a peach within her wired word cage.

She must place his peaches in their time. Not only how the world hurricaned around outside his studio but also where this particular painting sat in the stack he built against the peeling wall. His orange room with its turps scent, translucent paint specks and the sodden, disappointed cloths littering the floor. This picture would be in the middle of the canvas stack. Right in the centre of his life’s seesaw when he didn’t know whether he’d go up or down.

Did his period really matter? Don't artists always push the envelope of their time out? He didn’t seem much bound by its rules. He sold his art on the street and made the most of indulgent sponsors – industry or crown alike. Yet he buried wives and children, there were almost as many stilled lives for him as there are now surviving paintings for her.

Rachel knows that’s why he painted the way he did. All those tiny changes to the same scene. Not the light or angle or materials he used – they were consistent. The colours might be lower key or more saturated but that was for a reason. What was important to him was how the objects were grouped together, how they clung.

She knew from her research that this painting was his twenty-fifth attempt at the same scene. The dominant peaches in the centre look the same to her as his previous attempts. The colours are almost identical to the last image. All that’s new are the bruises on the peaches’ flesh. When she squints at the image they look like ghosts, voids within solids. When Rachel opens her eyes wide they dilute into coarser brushstrokes for more colour depth.

She pushes her tablet away from her. She can’t write about what this painting makes her feel. What would she do with another degree, anyway? She was stupid to think The History of Art was a good subject to distract her.

Her peaches are long past their best and the, as yet unseen, bruises will keep on deepening. So be it. She’d forgotten that the relationship between an artist and an art lover is always a private viewing. She didn’t need to describe how he made her feel. She just had to feel it.