Almost

Ekphrasis

There is half a cello on the almost chessboard floor. Its thin strings are a darker grey than the grey on the floor that is almost white. The instrument on the top of the table can almost be seen; the painting on the right that you can almost make out through its darkness has a man with two women. You cannot like the man. There is some hope in the sky in the painting on the left, above the blackness of trees you cannot discern. The blue cloth that lies out of place on the table has thick folds—it is heavy, like velvet that is at once too soft, and too artificial.

The painting on the instrument that she is playing is a continuous rolling landscape that you move with slowly. Beyond it there will be some more of the same—hills and rocks and trees against a blurred blue sky—here, the only wonder left is at the ordinary. The bows in her hair match the yellow of her dress, an intentional choice that her face does not betray. She watches her thin hands intently, only you cannot see their movement. The man sitting at the orange chair who does not face you is the man in the painting above him—he has to be. He does not watch his hands moving across the instrument he holds; there is some thought of after, when the movement and sound is momentarily ceased. She stands with one hand raised and a paper in the other, singing. The earrings and necklace she wears are the same as her friend in yellow. Like the women in the painting above her who are wearing similar clothes.

There is almost too much darkness, the room needs light. They do not look at each other now, their looks will be saved for the conversation after—the song has almost ended.

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A window on the third floor

There is nothing that I can say about it. There are no people, no women talking, no horses, no faces, and no trees—there is nothing in this painting that I can see in the others lying next to it. I would like to tell you about the day it was made because this is the only story of it that I know, but perhaps I shouldn’t; to me the painting is only colours. So I will not tell you about how she turned a large calendar from Goethe Institute over, and stuck it on the wall. I will not tell you that she was fourteen years old, or of how she pushed a table to that wall and sat on the four large pillows she put on it. She can tell you that it was uncomfortable, but she is not here, so she won’t. She can also tell you that there was nothing on her mind when she painted that day, but she will not be able to tell you that either.

It is the corner of the right side that I like the most. The colours there are dark, moving from one to the next in no exact shape that has a name. There is, for instance, a red bean. It is a colour that doesn’t yet have a name, an odd mixture of crimson lake and Prussian blue. I can tell you that she first used crimson lake because of the way the Prussian blue looks on it—like circular waves, like ripples when you drop a stone in water when you are at a lake and feeling sad. Below the nameless colour is a green—not viridian hue—but at the moment, I cannot remember the name. It is muddy and dark, like the paste you made of Neem leaves when you were younger, to use in the cooking games she wanted you to play. The two of you no longer talk now. Around this is Prussian blue that has been scratched at in straight lines that criss-cross each other, looking like the mosquito mesh on your window. In some places the Prussian becomes cobalt blue because it was rubbed at with cloth—I see the advantage of using oil paints on glossy paper, it is so easy to make sure that nothing remains.

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There is more happening on the left; I like it less because it is so crowded. They are colours that move quickly and they are less similar—here it is more about the lines, than the blocks of colour. The paint is thinner and there are no layers, the colours scratched out by the backs of paintbrushes and toothpicks seem more hasty—like she ran out of songs to sing, and couldn’t wait to finish painting. It is not a bad thing. The burnt sienna close to the corner was mixed with too much linseed oil, I can see where it dripped down, and she did not notice. It has made a track of its own; it looks like a pathway cleared in the snow, though I have never seen snow. But the track is surrounded by almost haphazardly drawn lines that do not allow for dark colour, like new snow that falls and covers tracks. Somewhere above it the green looks like fire. She was always scared of fire; at six she hated matchsticks and she still cannot light one.

It is odd to touch. You think you can feel the lines but they are actually too close together; there is only more roughness than anything else. Involuntarily you look at your finger and expect paint, but there is nothing there.