Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 12, 2012


Story: Shaer Reaz
Cover art: Sadia Islam

"It is very interesting what the artist was trying to portray here. All art comes from the deep interpretation of our surroundings and our place among it. The yellow represents new beginnings and rebirth, being the colour of spring. It is also the colour of nicotine-crusted teeth, of the unsightly tinge a chain-smoker acquires on his fingers. It is the colour of putrid pus and of journalism today.

The yellow we see here is both life and death. And the black dot is the artist himself. He is encircled and overwhelmed by life and its many vagaries and double standards. He is black; he stands apart. But he is also alone and has no escape.

How long can he hold on?"

The people milling around the painting are awed, the hushed silence being broken by gasps of sudden understanding. Convinced, the crowd follows the brilliant and clearly inspired interpreter to the next painting.

Another comes forward to peer at the curiosity hanging from the wall.

“Exquisite. That's all there is to it. The yellow square, alone, is enough to make one cringe - to look at the absurdity that is life and ask like Camus - is it worth it? The blend of Dali's surrealism with Picasso's cubism, the yellow square is quintessentially modern life. Limited, framed and a dull shade of bile. But the artist shows true genius with the black dot; the redeeming quality of darkness. Joyce wandering under sombre streetlights looking for the forbidden to redeem the yellow-ness of life. The yellow square engulfing the black dot is a heart-shattering cry against habit of living. It's a modernist interpretation of life from the time we were in dark, gloomy caves to our ascension into caves with better lighting. For all that life is - is a box we try to get out of, when we should really be looking within for the one black dot.”

This time the explicator shares his thoughts with a spiked and gelled up teenager, who is clearly on a cheap date with a girl who looks like she hasn't had a decent meal in a while.

“Holy smokes, that's good.”

“Out there, among the trees and the weed-choked shrubbery, the leaves do not move. Out there, where the water meets the shore, where the sunlight fragments through the clutches of desperate branches, where it breaks apart on the surface of a pond skinned by lily pads, ringed and guarded by weeping willows, the dust motes do not move.

But I can see them move.

Over, at the table where they sit, locked in their last supper, the saints do not move. At the table, the table clothed in white, bearing the plates and the goblets strewn, they look at him. Their mouths lodged in conversation, their gestures extravagant, their food forgotten, they do not move. He does not move.

But I can see them move.

At the edges of my vision, the corners where the light fights the shadow, I can see bodies trapped in writhing, pain and pleasure in still motion, their gaping mouths pleading. They do not move. Their hollow eyes and their pallid faces, their hands reaching. Here, at the easel that is my altar, there are colours. Black and yellow. I can see them in the colours. Caught in putrescent shit, their misery and their ecstasy, caught in spilled ink, their hate and their love. The colours do not move.

But I can see them move.”

The prosaic interpretation is waxingly lyrical. It is also surprising, because it is delivered by a fat balding man who looks like he might be willing to spend the evening at home with a huge plate of ribs than be at an almost classy event like this. But heads start nodding, understanding that simplicity of mind might be an explanation to his genius.

As the crowds shuffle away, my volunteer tag somehow gets tangled up in my belt. Short people problems. Turning, I look over the painting, trying to grasp its meaning.

There's a black smudge on the frame's glass. Taking a tissue out of my pocket, I wipe the smudge away. And walk away from a yellow square hanging from a wall.


Quotes provided by (in order of appearance) Kazim Ibn Sadique, Moyukh Mahtab, Osama Rahman, Tareq Adnan. And me.


   

 

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