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Dome of Death

Chapter One
Exposing oneself in public is not for the faint-hearted. En masse and expertly illuminated, the
paintings gave viewers rather more insight into the private spaces of my mind than I‟d bargained
for. The fact that the gallery‟s patrons were also baring their souls with every critical utterance and
every painting bought was scant consolation – especially as no one was buying!
After an hour of eavesdropping among the usual crush of wine-sipping social scramblers, I wished
I hadn‟t. Stepping back, I collided with an elderly, shapeless little woman loosely wrapped in a sari
decorated with mirrors.
„Young man!‟ she demanded as though I‟d been caught spraying graffiti, „Are you the artist?‟
How to respond? People who call themselves artists remind me of Napoleon seizing the jewelled
cap, crowning himself and living to rue the day. Such accolades are for others to bestow. If, as
frequently happens, a painter‟s efforts delight no one but himself, then the labour has been little but
therapy. Only those whose works impose order on the chaos of existence and reinvigorate flagging
spirits by giving the viewer a glimpse of a less imperfect world, are worthy of the title “artist”. Not
being entirely confident I deserved the appellation, I responded cautiously.
„I made the paintings, if that‟s what you mean.‟
With an impatient toss of the head that set hoop earrings and several loose chins swaying, she
declared, „Everything‟s too expensive!‟
I smiled, bowed graciously and left her squinting myopically at a couple of frolicking nudes.
„What about this one?‟ demanded a businesslike young woman, jabbing her fingernail at a tree-
fringed lake.
„Oh c'mon Jazmyn, we‟ve already spent a fortune on the lounge.‟
„Hope it‟s still here tomorrow.‟
„It will be. No one‟s buying anything. You can get a recliner for what they‟re asking for this
thing.‟ He peered into his glass. „I haven‟t a thirst for art, but I‟ve an artistic thirst.‟ They elbowed
their way to the bar.
Before films and television arrived to bewitch the world, paintings could sway multitudes, convert
sceptics and provoke intellectual war. Today, they‟ve been reduced to decoration, and the only
certainty for aspiring painters is that a market for their outpourings is not assured. I slunk to a
corner, sipped my drink and nibbled humble pie.
„Cheer up you miserable bastard.‟ Max thumped me on the shoulder and draped a heavy arm
across my shoulders. „It‟s my opening too, so do us a favour and look a bit more confident - you‟re
scaring people away.‟
I shook him off.
„What‟s the matter, Pete?‟
„How many sold?‟
„It‟s early days. Give ‟em a chance. They haven‟t seen a decent painting before. Wait till the red
dots appear – then we‟ll see a panic thrusting of plastic. Hey,‟ he continued gently, „I wouldn‟t have
filled my brand new gallery with anything less than the best. The place is crowded and the
reaction‟s positive. So either play the confident prodigy or hide your miserable mug out the back
before it spoils the party.‟
As usual, he was right, and as usual, it irritated. People were showing plenty of interest and at that
very moment Maurice, the curator and manager of Maximillian‟s Fine Art Gallery, was placing a
red dot on the frame of one of the more expensive works. I caught Max‟s eye. He shook his head,
punched my shoulder manfully and breezed away.
I almost relaxed. Almost, because although my paintings were good, I couldn‟t shake the feeling
they were outdone by the architecture. The gallery was Max‟s proclamation that not only was he a
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