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Small relief

Once upon a time there was an artist called Lucia. At least, that is what it said on the card:

lucia pintoretta

conceptual art
on the margins between 2D and 3D
oil / mixed media / miniature screen prints

@smallrelief

But deep in her heart, Lucia knew she was really a house painter. A wall-coverer. A primer. A coater.

Mornings, she would arrive in her studio and with a sigh take up her brush to finish an abstract portrait or satirical landscape which she had started months earlier. She hated the delicate dabbing and the minute mixing of colours that seemed to be needed to create her works. The endless search for fresh ideas. The pressure to surpass herself every time, as her critics demanded. To excel. To ‘help art ahead’.

She was fed up with art fairs, prize juries, artist-in-residence applications. She was tired of twittering about her own work. Every morning she was unsure how to make it to the end of the day. How to stay on her chair, staring at Illustrator or at a bit of canvas the size of her phone. Every evening, she had grown a little humpier, a little lumpier.

But she would spring back into shape whenever she allowed herself to stretch a big new canvas. She would gesso it with all the violence of a herd of cows on first leaving their byre in spring.

She knew that the larger works did not sell that well. Miniatures were her thing, miniatures was what she had been in the New Yorker for, so miniatures was what she had to produce. Ever since she had been little, teachers and scholarship committees had begged her to use her talent: her ‘sensitive touch’, her ‘delicate shadings’. So much practice, so much sweat. So much sensible investment. A waste to let that go unused.

Beneath the window, the primed canvases were piling up.

But that is what she dreamt of: covering surfaces; measuring her progress in square metres. Changing the entire aspect of a room in a single day. Flinging paint at walls by the pot-full. Instead of creating subtle satires for a sniggering collector to explain to his private guests, she would brighten up someone’s day with a yellow footbridge, or a sky-blue brick wall bounding with the train track. And at the end of each day, something material would have been accomplished.

While doing her work, she might stumble over an old nail or a rusty spot. But she would simply paint them over! And even if she missed a bit here or there, it would not make a difference in the grand scheme of things. O wonderful meeting of light and labour! O concrete paradise! Acrylic dream!

O, flimsy dream…

Abby Flat-Coat, Hogeweide Bridge near Utrecht (2010). Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

 

But one night, Lucia’s followers were able to read the following message:

#greatrelief @smallrelief

And that was that.

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Labour day: a fairy tale

Once upon a time, in a country across the sea, there was a king. The king was in a bad state, because all the money that he made from selling bread to his subjects was spent on his subjects’ wages, so that there was no money left on Sunday for himself and his ministers to eat raspberry cake. On this particular day, all they could afford was plain cake, and when the young heir, who had been taking tea in the nursery, entered the great hall and asked: ‘Daddy, where are the rahbries in my cake?’, the king’s heart broke in two.

So the king gathered his ministers, and the first minister said: ‘sell more bread’, but there was only so much grain the king’s farmers could grow in a week, and only so much flour his millers could grind, and bread his bakers could bake. Then the second minister spoke, and he said: ‘stop paying wages to the people’, but the king had tried that, and noticed that the people had stopped buying his bread. Besides, there had been a lot of shouting in front of his palace and his roses had been trampled on; in short, the whole business had been very unpleasant. But then two new ministers stepped forward. They had only just arrived at the court, but the king had heard they had greatly helped out a befriended head of state with his wardrobe.

The two ministers stepped forward and announced they could take away all the king’s worries. All he had to do was run a lottery. Everyone who worked for him would enter the lottery: their ticket came instead of their wages. Each Sunday, the king would have to draw a winner and that winner would receive a fifty-fold weekly wage and could loaf about for an entire year if they so chose.

So that evening the king issued lottery tickets, and everything worked splendidly. The whole week long, his subjects worked away diligently, and the king still saved ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine weekly wages in one week. The winner of the lottery came to the palace – but rather than trample on the king’s roses, he shook hands with him. Meanwhile, the rest of the people mustered fresh courage for the following week’s lottery.

And everyone in the kingdom lived happily but on average very shortly.

 

The drawing is by Queen Victoria, of her son Albert Edward (1843), and now in the UK Royal Collection RCIN 980062 (reproduction from Wikimedia Commons). Unnecessary to add that Albert Edward was not the prince in the fairy tale; Victoria’s drawing is used purely because it offers such a beautiful illustration to the story.