Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Arcadia

Nigel Healy is sitting at the glass desk in the office of his gallery that lurks in an expensively fashionable part of the city. He is wearing a handmade Italian linen suit in a natural shade known as ecru. The jacket alone is worth more than some of his artists earn in a year; but one or two would still prefer to paint on it, than be seen in it.

Nigel has just smoked a cigarette past the filter, which explains the contorted leer on his face.

Nigel has been stood up; he had planned to have a ‘non-earner’ in the gallery this month, an installation by an outsider artist; however the artist and his work have vanished. He has had the gallery rebuilt, commissioned preview articles in art magazines and invited top clients for a lavish and expensive opening, which is just a few hours away.

“I should have known Mac would let me down… bloody lunatics. I should have made Tracey stay with them overnight. Fucksake, who can I get to fill the slot now?” thinks Nigel.

The gallery is pristine. The old kauri boards have been sanded and waxed, the walls have been replaced and laser levelled. Their surfaces have been regibbed, plastered and are having their final coat of paint. The space is a patchwork of scents: resinous kauri, damp plaster, fresh paint, glue and beeswax. A colour temperature light system is being test run by a technician and the space is quietly changing from cool to warm, like the start of a new day.

Healy also has a terrible hangover, which explains his inability to smoke a cigarette properly. A shout cuts through his headache like a saw.

‘Hey Nige’, when’s the farkin skip arriving?’ queried Terry the builder, loudly. ‘We’ve still got all the old framing to get rid of, mate.’

‘Oh fuck off’ thought Healy, but knowing that builders tend to be more temperamental than artists, he was politic, “ I will ask Tracey to get onto it’

“Better make it a farkin bigun, there’s all the old gib and seven big bags of sawdust as well”, yelled Terry from a few feet away.

A really stupid idea was forming in Nigel Healy’s cocaine and alcohol challenged mind. He spoke into his latest gadget, a fountain pen, bluetooth radio intercom, not realising how foolish he looked. ‘Tracey get on to the art school and get me a couple of interesting looking post grads, we will need them to do a site specific work, in the gallery, with timber and sawdust, tell them its about entropy or something and then find Ewan Woodie, we will need him to write it up. Oh and Tracey can you order the biggest skip you can find and get them to leave it out the front of the gallery, no don’t worry about the traffic, it should be quite sculptural, yes.. good.. see you back for lunch?. Ciao’

Healy puts his intercom pen back in his jacket pocket not realising that it was still transmitting and would continue to do so for the rest of the day.

‘Hey Terry’ shouts Nigel, with a faint stereo reverb that makes him resolve to go easy on the stimulants in future. ’Just stack all of that shit in the middle of the gallery and then you guys can knock off.’

Ewan Woodie the day before.

‘What can I say about this kind of thing; I can contextualise it as art if I am asked to, or more accurately, payed to. But what do you think? Are you swayed by my reviews and see this ‘arrangement’ in a new light, or are you one of those who see me as a secure and steady stream of bullshit? Or do you just hit the delete button?’

Healy had commissioned a piece on his latest find, an ‘outsider artist’ called ‘Mac’, who decorates the forests with old clothes, some pieces are like flags others, where the garments are filled with branches are quite figurative, but there is no art to Mac’s arrangements, only obsession. Healy insisted we meet the artist on site rather than at the gallery “for the true experience” and indeed, after a large reefer, the sun lit the silks and cotton and leaves in a riot. The tree people became sinister, atavistic totems. Mac and his smelly friend Bob were whooping and dancing in strange costumes, obviously off their heads. Sam got some of the scene on camera but didn’t quite catch the mood; I dare say in much the same way that something will be lost when Healy displays this nonsense in his gallery as an installation.

If this was a freelance job, and if Mac weren’t such a psycho, I’d do my usual on this lot; a big colour spread to exploit the art and then lay into the reasons why it could never be art. That way we all win, the newspaper loves the piccies, the public loves the rubbishing and the artists don’t care as long as they get the big picture published… well most of them don’t.

‘Bob’ the night before.

‘Mac, he’s a quiet one I’ve been sleeping rough with him for a while now and he’s never no trouble. His thing is clothes, oh and trolleys, some from the supermarket, a couple of kiddie’s pushchairs and at the moment an orange wheelbarrow that he nicked from a building site. He will fix his transistor radio to the trolley, tune in to a rock station and disappear for the day. He comes back with all sorts of stuff, some good, some not so; fags, booze, food, all good; but road cones, any bright plastic, rope, string, clothes, more clothes and underpants; men’s, women’s, kiddies, bloomers, g-strings, y-fronts, the lot, all freshly washed. He hangs them about the place, in the oak trees or on lines that he rigs between them like flags at a caryard. And his scarecrows, they just appear, I’ll find one in the bush and sometimes I get a hell of a fright.

I don’t get why this bloke Healy wants to put this shit in a art gallery, he must be soft in the head, I don’t think that Mac is gettin nuthin for it neither. Lest he hasn’t said nuthin bout any cash. I don’t know why Mac gives the bastard the time of day.

Kids have been following Mac again, better watch out for that. They’s a bloody nuisance and as sure as the rain they will bring trouble.

Mac surprised me last night by giving me a piece of advice. We’d been drinking our brew, of course, and the schoolies had some dope. Mac was relaxed, not his usual silent watchful self; he said, “Bob” and he paused for a heartbeat “always take a natural fibre over a synthetic” and his long, sad face broke into a beautiful smile.

Senior Constable Fairweather on the day of the opening.

At exactly 7.45 this morning I observed two vagrants making a campfire behind the gardeners hut at the old St Mary’s Hospital. We accosted the vagrants and evicted them from the grounds.

St Mary’s was closed in 1989 and is now derelict. I was acting on information supplied

by a Mr Wilson who had been walking his dog through the grounds on the evening of the 27th. He had witnessed several vagrants in a state of serious intoxication. He had also noted branches ‘decorated’ with clothes and the vagrants were wearing several layers of women’s underclothing. This would explain the rash of washing line thefts over the past months.

More seriously Mr Wilson stated that he saw pupils from St Mary’s college participating in the debauchery. After enquiry to date, none of the pupils have been identified.

Under the circumstances it was decided that constables, Blithell, Pudney, Scrimshaw and myself should apprehend the vagrants. They are at present in the cells and the mental health services have been notified.

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