No 164 - 2001
The Colour of 33
Kandinsky. That sky-candy man with his blues and his rainbows. ‘Blue Rider’, ‘Blue Mountain’, ‘Blue of the Sky’. Some people say his rainbows mean Salvation. Those rainbows! - arcs in the heavens. Geometry of the spirit? - or just geometry? Whatever.
Acts of special intimacy in the presence of strangers. Art shows are the sexiest things - don’t you find that? Museums, too. All that dim lighting and a sense of one’s brevity. Carpe diem. The best was when we all but came together by paddling palms in front of a half-lit case of Chinese jade. (True, we were familiar lovers and it was Paris - but it felt subversive, insides melting like that just two metres from a Nazi-faced guard.)
You stand there, stripped naked by the picture - bare, forked animal. The irresistible foreplay of the label draws you on with names and titles and little tickles of interpretation and, before you know it, you’re right there in the arms of the painting, giving yourself to it, feeling its entrance as gentle or forced. (Had a friend, once, raped by Munch’s ‘Scream’: took her a long time to get over it.)
At the Kandinsky we started off together. Okay, so I like to spend a little longer on the foreplay than my lover does, but over the years I’ve learnt to read the labels quickly so I can keep up with him. It wasn’t really a problem. I’d also got used to being at his side when his eyes caressed the curves that were not mine and he was led away to the picture’s private place to take his pleasure. Fleeting intimacies. I tried not to be jealous. Sometimes he would share his experiences with me - how the picture had touched him, and where; whether it was an encounter he would remember. Of those that had satisfied him most - or touched him in some way or place that none other had - I would find postcards pinned to his notice-board or propped against his desk-lamp. I’ve learnt to accept these fleeting enthusiasms competing for his attention - apart from my rage, that time, over the Modigliani nude. It wasn’t so much the long neck and veiled eyes, but the dark triangle below. ‘Should I dye mine black?’ I asked him. His laughter reduced me to tears. Us women and our insecurities!
His arm around me, we stood naked in front of ‘Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love)’. I believe they call it troilism: three in a bed. The painting’s pinks touched our own pinkest parts. Moistly we went together into the yellow burning at its centre. It had its way with us both and our pleasure was equal. I have no problem with that.
‘Composition VII’ was a different matter. Still langorously post-coital from the Garden of Love, we ambled towards it. I hadn’t even finished reading the label when his arm dropped from my shoulder and he was tearing off his clothes muttering, ‘Oh beautiful, so beautiful ...’ and before I could even say ‘Wait for me!’ he was in there wrapped in a rainbow, giving himself to cherry, cobalt, and reseda, entering blindly into the white spaces. He was too far gone for sharing. I’d leave him to it, come back by myself in a while. It’d be worth it, judging from the moans of pleasure in his eyes.
I went to another room entirely. What’s the big deal with chronology?
The usual orgy was in progress - shameless sensuality in a public place. Optical thrills - spilling and quivering on the skin of our dreams. Eyes wide. I loved it.
Across that crowded room I saw my chance for a light encounter - a canvas scattered with tit-bits of charm. But just as I began to slip out of my tee-shirt, two Spanish women beat me to it. They were well away. Noisy with it. (Critics, maybe.)
Only one picture touting for attention now: dark and different. Small. Silent. Monochrome. Alien and neglected among all that refined promiscuity of rainbows. One haunting old black-and-white photo in an album of jolly-coloured snaps. At least I’d have it to myself.
I went for the foreplay. It wasn’t exactly frisky. Title: ‘Grim situation’. Date: 1933.
I was going to get more than I’d bargained for. It tapped depths of depraved knowledge in me that I’d nearly forgotten among all those kaleidoscopic antics, those carnivals of colour. All that sky-candy.
Jack-boots. Whips. Black leather. I cowered in the corner, guessing what would come. A brutal opening. 1933.
Naked and bleeding with History, I was still standing before the dark aberration when a couple of teenagers came up - American. They were holding hands with a babes-in-the-wood kind of innocence. I’d have bet my ears they were virgins (in art, that is).
‘Hey, it’s a funny little potato-man!’
‘Or some kinda large bean - a bean with a face on.’
‘You mean it’s a human bean?’
That seemed to strike them as sophisticated humour. They were absorbed in laughter for a while - during which she leaned towards him and flicked his ear lightly with the tip of her tongue. I don’t think they even saw me there, still trembling from the jack-boots.
‘What d’ya think the human bean’s supposed to be doing?’
‘I dunno. Looks like he’s about to fall off the edge of something.’
‘Maybe he hasn’t noticed where he’s at.’
‘Maybe he’s blind and no-one’s told him.’
‘D’you think it’s just some kinda drawing he never got around to colouring in?’
‘I dunno. Maybe it says on the ticket.’
I stepped back so she could read the label - though it seemed a shame their mood of happy inconsequentiality was about to be sledge-hammered by a date. 1933.
‘What does it say?’
‘Yup - I guess it would be, if you couldn’t see where you were going.’
‘Doesn’t say anything ’bout it not being finished - nothing ’bout the no colour.’
It just came out. ‘The date,’ I said. ‘The date explains it all. 1933’. They looked at each other. I saw their eyes say, ‘loony: let’s split’ - the way you do when you’re young.
They split, leaving me to 1933.
Maybe I was jealous: they’d merely been toyed with and dismissed with a pat on the buttocks while I was still sore from deep abuse.
And even if their virginal state had’ve been momentarily fingered by the Grim Situation, they only had to turn away from history and - ‘Look! Here’s a rainbow he made earlier.’ He was nothing if not merciful, old sky-candy man.
What with the colour of ’33 in me and that ‘mad-woman’ look from the young, I searched out my lover to comfort me. But he was heavily into a cute little patch of red when I found him. He didn’t even notice me. It was getting very up close and personal and I was in no mood for sharing the colour of blood.
A sudden urge to drag him away at the height of his pleasure and force him to endure that abusive frame. So he’d understand how I felt.
But that’s not how we are with each other.
I’d have to find my own solution. ‘Come on, sky-candy man, help me ...’
Only one thing for it. Blue.
‘Blue Mountain’ was being stroked and climbed by a whole party of Italians. But ‘Blue Rider’ ... Just what I needed.
Ah - that’s better. Now, ride me, ‘Blue Rider’, ride me ...
Heather Reyes was born in Essex where she now lives and works. Her short stories have appeared in a wide range of publications in the UK and the US. She has also written about the contemporary novelist and critic, Christine Brooke-Rose. Her story Dancing to Schoenberg was in Ambit 156. The Colour of 33 is from a sequence of short prose pieces on colour called new prism jazz.
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