Archive for art

Shitty Brown

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by javedbabar

“I’m looking forward to the art class,” said Irene. “It’s been years since I’ve painted anything. It will be fun I think.” James stared past her towards the front windows, where light poured in. He seemed to prefer facing that direction, not that he could tell her himself. She just had a feeling.

She enjoyed her daily visit to Open Hearts seniors daycare centre. It got her out of the house, and she’d made a couple of friends now. Most of all she liked to spend time with James, who had been her soulmate in many lifetimes, even though she’d found him too late in this life to share much, and his stroke had left him unresponsive to her and everybody else.

What did he do all day, she wondered? What did he think? What did he feel? What was it like to be locked up inside yourself, unable to share your thoughts and dreams? Poor James. Her James. King James. She said to him, “Okay darling, I’m going to see Mr. Amin to see if I can help today. He seems to appreciate my assistance.”

Mr. Amin said, “Irene! Nice to see you.” She wondered if they had magic imps in India? If they did, then he would definitely be one of them. “The art teacher will be arriving at ten. Would you please help her to set up when she comes.”

Mr. Amin was amazing. Where did he find resources for these kinds of activities? The Authority had cut back severely on funding. Public services were closing down everywhere, yet Open Hearts was running smoothly with cultural activities weekly, even twice weekly. They’d recently been taught a dance called Zumba, Egyptian belly dancing, healthy cooking, pottery, origami, and rapping – at which ex-cowboy Albert excelled, though Mr. Amin was displeased with the continual rhyming of his name with gold pannin’ and jammin’; “It is pronounced A-meen,” he said. “Not Am-in.” Albert had then rhymed his name with spleen and unseen, and obscene and latrine, at which point Mr. Amin had asked him to stop.

Irene helped the teacher lay out paper, paints, brushes, and pots. She hadn’t brought many colours – just the basics: red, yellow, blue, black and white. Enough to make something garish like they would have produced when children. Maybe they would succeed in mixing subtler shades. From what she recalled though, mix too much and you end up with shitty brown. There was enough of that around here already.

Mr. Amin called everybody together. Not everyone wanted to join in though, and not everyone was able to. Her James for example just sat to one side, staring. How could he engage? Never mind a paintbrush, he could barely hold his spoon.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Mr. Amin. “Here is our teacher, Stella. She has been an artist for twenty years, and has kindly agreed to deliver a six-week art course at Open Hearts.”

“If she’s an artist, then why isn’t she making art?” said Gemma.

“What do you mean by that?” said Mr. Amin.

“Isn’t there a saying: ‘Those that can do, and those that can’t teach’?”

There was an embarrassed silence, broken by Stella. “Actually I do both. I teach two days a week and paint three days. I’ll invite you all to ‘Being Become’, my next exhibition in the City. Mr. Amin, would you be able to arrange the transport?” He nodded. “Good. Let’s begin. Why do we make art?”

“Because it’s lovely?” said Irene. “It improves our environment.”

“Yes, it does. Anybody else?”

Mr. Amin couldn’t help joining in. He said that we had a basic instinct for harmony, balance, and rhythm. We desired experience of the mysterious. It was an expression of the imagination. It held ritualistic and symbolic functions. Nobody needed reminding that he had once been the Minister of Culture for Northern India, before retiring to Canadia to be near his grandchildren.

Stella said, “I think you’ve covered everything, Mr. Amin. Shall we begin?”

People fiddled about, knocked over water, got paint on their clothes, bent brushes, and ripped paper, but eventually paint made it onto paper, and artworks “became”.

Nobody noticed James rise. He shuffled over to the central table and seated himself before an art station. “What’s he doing?” Gemma said. “Watch out, he’ll make a big mess.” Stella helped him to get started, and he continued independently. It was true though, he was making a mess. There were patches of colour beside and then atop each other, which quickly fused into browns. Shitty browns. It was time for lunch, and they went to the dining area for oil-free chicken curry with chick pea rice. James stayed where he was, manifesting his vision.

Mr. Amin went to check on his progress. As Minister of Culture he had considered all manner of artworks for purchase and display in national museums. From Mughal miniatures to pickled sharks. He saw that there was merit in this painting. Within the shitty brown he saw a strong story emerging. He saw two trails of colours joining, separating, and rejoining, arching and twisting, fading and reforming – losing and then finding each other – yet their forms were always entwined.


Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Thanks for coming,” said Mr. Jameson, Recreation Manager of the Community Centre, aka. The Transparent Temple. “Would you like some tea?”

“Er, do you have some coffee?” said the journalist. “I’m not really a tea drinker.”

“I’m sorry we don’t. It’s Tea Awareness Month in the Village. All municipal facilities have only tea.” The journalist licked his lips as if trying to compare the two beverages. “And it’s also political. World Coffee Corp has taken over all the coffee shops in BC, so municipalities are promoting tea. Anyway, that’s a different story.”

“Yes, it is. Let’s talk about that next time. Yes tea would be fine, with milk and sugar please.”

Mr. Jameson served the tea, then seated himself opposite the journalist and said, “Would you like to ask questions, or shall I relate the whole story?”

“Just start at the beginning – tell me about the artist and how you acquired the artwork – and I’ll ask questions when I need to.”

“Ok then,” said Mr. Jameson. “We have a fabulous creative community in Lucerne. Artists first came here twenty years ago to escape the City, and rented old cabins here and there. The mountains and forests inspired them, and they had the isolation they craved.”

“How did they survive financially? Did they sell their works?”

Mr. Jameson smiled. “What’s the second largest industry in BC?”

“They grew pot? That was their income?”

“Well when they sold it they had income, and when they didn’t they smoked it and didn’t care.”

“That sounds like a good life to me,” said the journalist.

“Well it was initially. But then they got married, had kids, bought houses, and most got regular jobs. But some stayed out there literally. Unemployed or unemployable. Peter Stone never stopped working. He never sold anything, but never stopped working. He said it was his duty. His gift from God.”

“Is that a quote? Did he actually say ‘gift from God’?”

“Yes, he wrote it in his proposal. I can give you a copy if you like.” The journalist nodded. “Anyway, when we initiated the ABC – Art as Beautiful Community – program, he submitted work along with everybody else. He paints onto full-sized plywood panels; we thought it was too rough and rejected it. But then the large format painters we’d chosen – maybe you’ve seen Sharon Move’s old barns, and Wynn Kingston’s young bears – couldn’t commit their works for six months, due to upcoming shows. So we were left with Peter Stone. He’s an abstract painter, and we knew that his work would receive mixed reviews. The most prominent piece was Embrace of Infinity.”

The journalist said, “Do you have a picture of it? I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen it. I looked online but found nothing.”

Mr. Jameson nudged his file around the desk and said, “You won’t believe this, but we don’t have any pictures of it either.” He explained how none of the images appeared. All you saw was a blank plywood board. The paints were invisible. There was no explanation for it. The artist said that his work expressed the inexpressible. It was a work of light and shade.

“Tell me about the yoga class – the children’s one.”

“Well the painting was shown in the Great Hall for three months. Some people liked its raw energy and rough colours. They said its swirls reminded them of seasons, the weather, skiing, and moose rutting. But most thought it was pretty lame. Then we started a children’s yoga class on Wednesdays. One boy – who I can’t name for legal reasons – just sat there staring at the painting and wouldn’t move. The next week, two more boys joined him. The week after, the whole group sat before the painting and chanted, and the week after that too. We thought that yoga must be too intense for children, and cancelled the…”

The journalist interrupted. “That’s when I first heard about Embrace of Infinity. My colleague covered the yoga story. That poor teacher had a really hard time. I hear she’s left town and gone to live in an ashram.” Mr. Jameson raked his head up, indicating yes. “Is that when the City dealer came to the Transparent Temple?”

“You mean the Community Centre? I thought so. Yes he viewed the work then went to meet the artist in his cabin. He declared Peter Stone a genius and the work a masterpiece. He estimated its value at $12 million.”

“Where did that figure come from?” He tapped his pen. “It sounds pretty random?”

“Well I remember telling him that the Community Centre cost $12 million to build, and the next thing I know the painting’s worth the same.”

“What do you think? Is it worth $12 million? Look, is there any way that I can see it? I mean, this is a public building after all. Can’t I just have a little peek?”

Mr. Jameson shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s impossible. Even I can’t see it now. Due to the controversy the Great Hall is closed till further notice. Its windows are all covered, and the painting is guarded around the clock. It’s being removed by the dealer tomorrow. He’s found a wealthy buyer.”

“There are rumours that it’s World Coffee Corp’s owner.”

Mr. Jameson stiffened. “The Village has every right to sell it. We have a buy option for $1,000. It’s in the contract. I’ll give you a copy. It will pay off the Community Centre’s construction debts. It’s important that you give our side of the story.”

“And what about Peter Stone?”

“He has made violent threats against us. He is not allowed within 100 metres of the Community Centre.”


Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by javedbabar

Lucerne Arts Council had a good record with grants. Their writer-in-chief, Eric Voodoo, ensured that their annual roster of events was well funded; $3,000 from here, $2,000 from there, and you’ve soon got enough – at least enough to get started. You can top up funds with sales commissions, donations at the door, bar sales, and local sponsors.

This year had been a particularly good one. Their core event was always MADE – Music, Art, Dance, Expression – celebrating the community’s rich artistic offerings. This was followed by FADE, a fund-raiser for older artisans struggling to produce artworks as their minds and bodies fell apart. SADE was produced by the Upper Valley S&M sculpture community. JADE honoured the centenary of BC’s Chinese artists. PAID was the key sales event, encouraging visitors to slip their hands from their wine glasses down into their pockets, and for Gods’ sake buy something. RAID proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy; it was busted and all of its “herbal artworks” confiscated. And the highlight for artists – though not necessarily for visitors – was LAID; where many artists put in a good performance. Due to clever use of bylaws, it was classified as a “mixed media/exercise” event and wasn’t busted.

Eric Voodoo stared at the one-page grant application form. Six million dollars was on offer! He usually ran these off like clockwork, but he’d better give this one some serious thought. It was unusual to be approached by a charity, but he wasn’t going to kick this gift horse in the mouth. Village 2 Village (V2V) raised awareness of third-world refugees. Could Westerners imagine leaving everything they owned behind, setting off in a convoy, and hoping for the best? This happened regularly in developing nations. They had no choice.

V2V was looking for a Canadian village to make the long journey to an American desert, live there for a week, and then return. It would be a well-publicised event, highlighting the plight of refugee-escapees. They realized that this was no easy task, and had allocated 50% of their annual budget to the event. Its PR value alone would be incalculable.

One morning Eric Voodoo awoke aflame. “Darling, I’ve got it!” he said.

“What’s that my love?” asked his artist-wife, Toni Yahoo.

“You know that we’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man? Well, here’s our chance! They want to move a village to the desert for a week. Let’s take Lucerne to Burning Man!”

Toni Yoodoo knew better than to dampen her artist-husband’s enthusiasm. And what’s not to like about a $6 million Village art project? It was she that coined the name of the new village, “Burningham”.

Eric Voodoo called V2V. “So just to check, you will arrange all the transport at this end, plus set up the infrastructure at that end – everything? The whole move will cost us nothing? And food, water, and fuel are all covered there too? How much cash do we get at this end – I mean cash in hand, not budget allocation? $1.5 million? I’ve organized some events myself; they all go over budget. What’s your contingency? Yep 25% is good. Ok, thank you. Expect our application.”

Toni Yahoo approached the Mayor and Council. They’d had an issue with her husband since his art attack on the Transparent Temple, and didn’t agree that it looked better as the Opaque Oracle. Cleaning costs were being calculated. It was a quiet time of year. A direct injection of $1.5 million into the local economy and a paid community holiday were enticing. Mayor and Council supported the application wholeheartedly, and signed up the whole Village. It was a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it would be a nice break from their anti-P2P campaigning.

The P2P pipeline was the most flexible channel in history, running from the Infinite City, through the US, into Mexico, with the ability to transport oil, gas, water, food, passengers, and freight. Its construction costs were 400% over budget, and it would cost $1 billion annually to run. This multi-purpose pipeline was deemed “Fundamental Framework” by Homeland Security, and every obstacle to its completion was bulldozed. But now that it was ready, a softer approach was needed.

“Ok honey, we’re all done,” said Toni Yoodoo.

“Great,” said her husband. “Did you set the sprinkler timers?”

“Yes, I’ve done that my love, and the lights, and thermostats. The house is locked and workshop alarmed – not that anyone will hear it.”

The convoy assembled in the Village centre, and headed down the Sea to Sky Highway, which was closed to other traffic this morning. Crowds cheered them in Strattus, and in Squashy, but people were strangely absent as they approached the City. Instead of leaving the Highway as expected, the convoy continued for six extra junctions, and then turned off. Security was very heavy here. V2V had no choice but to play along when Homeland Security had entered their offices. Every employee was shadowed by an agent. Some were replaced by agents.

“What’s going on?” said Eric Voodoo to the V2V worker accompanying their bus.

“Remain silent,” he said. “We’re about to enter the P2P tunnel. Say goodbye to your beloved Canadia. You won’t be coming back.” Eric Voodoo struggled but was restrained. The agent spoke into his radio. “Ok, the convoy is ready to enter the pipeline. Demolition of Lucerne can begin. Here’s to our first Multi-Resource-Hub in BC.”


Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , on February 5, 2012 by javedbabar

“Let’s do drawing,” said Naomi.

“Sure, Sweetie,” said Bobby. “What would you like to draw?”


“Well, we’ve got all day,” he said; his sister wouldn’t be picking her up till six. “Let’s see what we can do. I’ve got some paper in my printer; we can use that, and…”

“No! Not on paper,” said Naomi emphatically. “You have to draw in a proper book. Then it’s a proper drawing. Do you have a book?”

“Will this do?” he said, producing a hardback notebook with black cover.

“That’s perfect!” said Naomi, and found a good page.

“And let me get some pens, I’m not sure what…”

“I’ve got special pencils,” said Naomi. “I always use them for drawing. You can use them too.” She produced a dozen fat, coloured pencils with natural wood casings, their colour only indicated by the lead.

“Thank you,” said Bobby. “Shall we start?”

Naomi nodded, and said, “I’ll draw me, and you draw you.” She started with a circle for a head, and triangle-dress below; stick arms and legs were followed by pig-tails, hands, and shoes. Bobby drew himself: tall and thin, with red hair and beard. When he’d finished, he looked over Naomi’s drawing. She had added more details to herself. She now had facial features, folds and buttons on her dress, and some elbow and knee details. Much better than he’d expected.

“That’s great!” said Bobby. “How do I look?”

“You look ok,” said Naomi. “Let’s draw some other things.” She drew a star and sunflowers. He drew a tree and snake.

“Do you mind if I go and do a few things?” said Bobby. It wasn’t urgent, just checking his email and Facebook, but his habit was unbreakable.

“Ok,” she said. “But don’t be too long. You have to help me with drawing.”

When he came back after twenty minutes he was amazed. She had filled the page with thick jungle. The first tree, sunflowers, and snake were enclosed within it, with the lone star shining above. It was surprisingly good for a six-year-old.

“You took too long,” she said. “I had to do all the drawing myself.”

“I’m sorry, Naomi, there was something important,” he lied. “But I’m back now. What shall we do?”

“Let’s do colouring. Us first. I’ll do me, and you do you.” She filled in her dress bright blue, added shading in the creases, and brightened up the front and sides. She made her skin a realistic milky-golden, and her hair brown-black. She got the hues just right. Bobby thought, she’s got some talent, this one, and began to colour himself. He didn’t quite get it right though. His skin was the colour of potatoes, and his hair and beard seemed fire-engine accessories. He wasn’t pleased with his purple shirt either, which he’d wanted to make black; and was he really wearing turquoise trousers?

Naomi giggled. “You look funny!” she said. “Do you prefer that you, or this you?”

“I think I like this me,” said Bobby, tapping his chest.

“I like the other one!” said Naomi. “Shall I help you finish him?” Bobby nodded. “Ok, you can finish the other things.”

Naomi selected her pencils and got busy. Bobby didn’t want to waste too much time on this. He quickly coloured the star, sunflowers, snake, and tree. He started feeling drowsy. He’d forgotten how tiring it was playing with kids. They seemed to have unlimited energy and imagination, and were happy just being themselves. It was good being a kid! And it was tiring being an adult, with or without them. Even more tiring than usual today; what was going on?

Bobby realized that he was somewhere else. Where was the cabin? Where was Naomi? Where was he? All he could see was jungle everywhere. It was not green, but white – a ghost jungle. He looked at his hands, his arms, his legs – they were coloured naturally – but everything around him was plain.

Leaves rustled in the distance. He wondered whether to hide but then thought, “what from?” and stayed where he was. Leaves quivered close by, and a moment later, Naomi burst out of them. “Hey, you’re here too, Uncle Bobby! Isn’t this fun?”

“Where are we, Naomi?” Bobby was dazzled, and disorientated.

“We’re in the drawing of course.”

What – actually in the drawing?

“Yes, that’s what happens when you colour it nicely,” said Naomi. “Didn’t your parents ever take you to art galleries?”

“Sure they did. But only into the galleries. Not into the paintings.” Bobby couldn’t believe he was even having this conversation.

“Didn’t you ever go into the paintings?” Bobby shook his head. “Oh, I only mean into them a little bit, to look around. Only the painter can go into them properly, and see what they really are. But see – You came into my drawing! I know I helped you, but now you’re here. Let me find some other people.” She skipped back through the leaves, but then poked her head out and said, “Just wait here; I won’t be too long.”

Bobby sat on a tree stump – was there logging in drawings, he wondered? – trying to make sense of his situation. He felt cool darkness and turned around. Naomi’s sunflowers towered over him, their heads filled with teeth rather than seeds – looking like octopus mouths – walking hulkily towards him. Bobby ran away from them into a forest clearing. High above, Naomi’s star began pulsing and screeching. It sent down red death rays. Bobby ran faster and further, till he reached a giant tree, and became tangled in its strange branches. He sensed movement around him, a slithering and hissing. It was his own snake about to attack him in his own tree. He shouted, “Help me!”

There was a rustling nearby. Naomi popped out of the jungle. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “I should have given you some pencils. It’s hard the first time, till you get used to it. Then if you don’t like something, you just rub it out and redraw it. But don’t rush it this time; remember to colour it in nicely.