VESTIGE (2011) Philip Hunter
Although art historians and biographers claim expertise in this area, it is often difficult to say what is going on in his private life. He was shacked up with her but was meanwhile having it off with this other person, who was coincidentally (or not) a friend of his best friend at the time, only then, against all expectation, he leaves her, or in fact let’s face it them, and takes up with the disillusioned wife of another artist, that artist meanwhile discovering true bliss in the company of someone who was, up until then, a famous serial monogamist, the accountant, or perhaps secret collector, of the artist in question. All of this was some time ago, don’t we know it, and cause now more for amused information than the tears and bedlam it all caused at the time. It is hard to see this in the work, especially if it’s a landscape, but theories are bound to emerge. The artist keeps drawing voluptuous abstract lines across his works, reminiscent of the erotic contours of his several lovers, or else just outlines of a canola field. Various hieroglyphs and oddity shapes on the side of the painting could be code for the fact that he is having something on the side. Or maybe it’s all in the mind of the viewer, or the artist. Maybe he is not having something on the side, being too busy pressing delicately the fingers of his paint brushes against the soft firm skin of the next canvas, out in the open for everyone to see, somewhere out the other side of St. Arnaud.
Curiously, it is once we get past conjecture into known reportage that the whole thing takes on the quality of a dream. The main art historian (some of them haven’t been born yet) sees no special need to merge work with life, though privately has always marvelled at the artist’s increased use of a lighter palette after he met his future wife. Biographers struggle with the flimsy evidence of hearsay anecdotes while overcoming his stonewalling statements along the lines of “I am a landscape painter, that’s about the sum of it!” or, “The handling of shades is best left to those with experience in these things.” More adventurous biographers venture into psychology, arguing that vestiges of the work must surely detail the reality of his home life, but then generally draw a blank. She with whom he was shacked up laughs it off as part of the folly of youth; anyway is not a reliable source. She with whom he was having it off now lives in the United States and can only be reached via her agent, though sometimes her face returns benignly to the artist’s mind in his dreams. The disillusioned wife pursued a whole new lifetime of illusions, with her own theories about the artist, his prejudices, his sleeping habits, his brush application, his private opinions, his football club, about all of which she is tight-lipped, except to her long time girlfriend. The other artist is busy commissioning his own biographer, who plans to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth from his client’s point of view: it promises to be hard-hitting. The serial monogamist has given up that pattern of existence as it’s just too much hard work. In fact, she’s given up on artists more or less, is jack of the whole pack of them and their narcissistic self-preoccupations. Including self-promotions. “Tell me about it!” she states stridently. If there is someone on the side no one is saying, though the artist is sometimes seen in Kyneton at unlikely times of the week for no apparent good reason. The children of these people have their own stuff to deal with, while some of their opinions of these ‘old fogeys’ are not publishable in respectable art journals. Avoid having anything to do with lawyers!