The Painter

The canvas stretched across a wooden frame in front of the open window, every fissure filled with the light shining in. The painter, hands deep in pockets, approached it hesitantly: if he turned his head to the side, there appeared to be flashes of white. He stretched his neck and leaned against the wall, flinging his arm over his twitching nostrils. Silently, reverently inhaling the odor of glue, he settled himself on the chair in front of the empty surface and propped his face on his hand, fingertips resting on chin. He wanted to find the point at which past meets future. To focus his thoughts, he took a deep breath, narrowed his eyes, then opened them, and screwed up the corners of his mouth. A sound came quietly from his lips. He rhythmically clamped the hand lying free in his lap into a fist, then relaxed it. The painter stood up, chose a brush, and hesitantly dipped it into the prepared paste. He briefly closed his eyes in order to hold the image, and then, his eyes fixed on the canvas, he began, but found himself struggling to fight off the sudden vertigo. He reeled, then became completely still, and across the canvas in fine, calligraphic lines of Latin letters, he signed the word "Ismukol".

He drew back slowly with a satisfied expression. Carefully cleaning the brush, he took paint, pale shades first, which he laid on the canvas, covering the signature. He painted the edges green, before the letters completely disappeared. A meadow took shape, pulling itself far into the surface, allowing a place for the painter\'s hand. The easel was delicately outlined, and the features of the figure standing in front of it resembled those of the painter himself. Behind, as a chaperone of his thoughts, was the deep-set mouth of his mother. He sighed loudly and smiled, convinced he had found the form he had been searching for. His hand now moved almost of its own accord as he painted over the vague figure, and a nude appeared in the picture-in-a-picture: the stomach was too big and the navel too flat, so he added black and red to the canvas, then five suns, the colors of the rainbow, a dragon-fly and a butterfly. Then white again, thick strokes from paint squeezed directly out of the tube. The landscape lost its summer quality, and the painter lost his tension as he painted a crescent moon. Rays of light created countless sparkling points on a lake, a lake on which he intended to float away, wishing to free himself of the controlling confinement. As he connected the lines on the canvas to himself, he knew he had to place himself in the painting. He allowed his hand and arm to run together with the colors in the emerging vortex, alertly observing the trembling shapes, the mottled flush spreading across his skin and what it meant. His breath came raggedly, torn with questions, a world, flowing from a brush, where everything was one. With this understanding, he stepped back.

He understood that the interior of the picture was hollow space as he flipped the bristles with his fingers and spattered white paint into its orifice. Then he paused. His body remained still as the boundaries of the painting gradually receded, the painter and his painting blurring and melting into one another.

(From: Lose/Destinies. Translation by: Anne Holcomb, Little Rock, USA)