Thin Air

The painting was too heavy to stand on an easel. When it was finished it leaned against the bare wall. Inches thick in barely solid waves of deep colour, pale skin shot with the suggestion of greenish veins deep beneath, grey shadows of bones, velvet rippling in the background. I thought it was beautiful.

But the match I dropped was the start of the end. It lit a streak of spirit along the floorboards like a touchpaper. We froze, then leapt up. Water quelled it quick enough and we were both laughing with relief, shaken by what might have been. Then we saw the wax dripping down the legs of the easel.

The heat had melted the figure. Red, cream, pink, black, sliding down into incoherence. You folded your arms and muttered about abstraction. I liked the effect.

Let’s go now to the bright gallery. Let the electric bleed of the skyline become the white glare of spotlights, and the cracked flagstones of the towpath become the shining white tiles. It’s opening night, and in front of us two men stand shoulder to shoulder. We can hear them.

‘It expresses the crisis of subjectivity.’

‘It’s talking about the impossibility of the body as an object of meaning.’

The dealer and the buyer. You shook hands and I smiled vaguely at the shallow reflections in the white floor. I watched a girl walk by, glance at me then raise her eyebrows at you. You looked away. We walked home in the soft rain and you sprang from my touch.

The next day we argued. I objected to being an object, as I put it. Scared by the importance of my body, by an endless desire that wasn’t for me but for a perfect rendering of me. Surrounded by versions of myself, and with you looking on, bored, I broke things, systematically. Smashed palettes, snapped brushes, slashed canvases. Threw tins and tubes around, threw them at the mirror till it smashed.

You thought I was childish.

‘I hate being young,’ I said.

‘Good for you.’

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6 Responses to “Thin Air”

  1. October 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm, Judy said:


  2. October 25, 2008 at 1:50 am, Singing in the Rain? « Wufniks said:

    […] who I found on there today? Wufniks’ old friend Elinor Tailor. You can find a story there that you can also find in Wufniks […]

  3. October 27, 2008 at 5:37 pm, Ursula said:

    A 21st century Lizzie Siddal! The cityscape is powerfully evoked.

  4. October 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm, Rachel said:

    It made want to crack a joke and say this is not very exciting is it? But then I loved the grey mundaness made powerful by description of art and colour. Loved reading it.

  5. October 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm, Sian said:

    beautiful and engaging

  6. October 31, 2008 at 2:25 pm, rob said:

    i have the same thoughts as judy.


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