Late Winter Gardening By Mary Ellen Gambutti

 

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches my anticipation heightens with each periodic burst of mild air. Each day a strengthening sun calls crocuses and daffodils to rise. No matter, there are still snow patches at the end of March, they cool and temper to a suddenly too warm day. I peel layers of down and wool as my activity warms me.

It’s time to begin. Time to start in gardens. I know what I’ll do first. Leaves having lain in moist beds since autumn rains, oak and maple matted and stuck to frosted soil, can be pulled off in small sheets. Nothing more delightful than to reveal strong yellow-green growth, musty smell of humus. Even wearing neoprene, the slight bite in my fingertips from part-frozen earth lends urgency to my task. I resist gloves, preferring to make direct contact in all seasons, but late winter gardening demands they be worn. 

Warmth on my back as I crouch along the garden border, still stiff from the winter couch. I know it will be weeks before I freely manoeuvre through the beds, haul soil and mulch, heavy clumps of transplants, and drag hoses.

Now the bed free and breathing, I pull the trusty red pruner from the back pocket of my jeans. I move to clip dried, bleached, yet still fragrant Perovskia, the Russian Sage. Left to bloom out its blue scraggly twist in the fall, now broken and leaning from months of snow and ice. Shape it toward its base, to any new pale growth along the stems, a technique I use with Lavender. If only wood, go further to the bottom tuft of green. By May it will be full and fragrant in the breeze.

These tasks bring joy to feel the life around me, the life within me. To prune and snip rose bushes encourages April growth. Recall how it’s done: just above a five-leaflet leaf. Methodical, precise, satisfying labor creates bloom, and when repeated, more bloom.

April trees – yellow and green buds,

towering branches sway

trill of pine warbler

About the Writer: 

Mary Ellen Gambutti writes about her life as an Air Force daughter, search and reunion with her birth family, her gardening career, and her survival of a stroke at mid-life. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Remembered Arts Journal, The Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Halcyon Days, The Book Ends Review, Nature Writing, Post Card Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Borrowed Solace, Thousand and One Stories, and Story Land Literary Review. Her memoir chapbook, ‘Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back,’ is self-published. She and her husband live in Sarasota, Florida, with their rescued Schnoodle.

 Eva’s Comments:

Landscapes form one of the many genres of art. The word ‘landscape’ is translated from the Dutch ‘landschap’ which refers to an area of land or ground. In art, ‘landscape paintings or drawings’ refer to works of art whose main subject matter is the depiction of a scene, usually encompassing nature. In such works, the viewer will see trees, flowers in a field, mountains and valleys, the sea and the beach, a river and riverbank, to mention some natural scenery. The viewer would perhaps notice that these scenes are idealisations of the real place or it can be an imaginary place, like those painted by Chinese ink painters. Chinese Landscapes, established since the 4th century BCE, are known by their definition: shan shui, meaning mountain, water. 

Landscapes started out as a backdrop to include human activity. In many Renaissance paintings, scenery was added to historical and religious paintings but viewers were not meant to focus on them but on the historical, mythological and religious stories that the paintings extolled. As many painters during the 16th century were mostly religious, one would find many spiritual elements (not all to do with Christianity) in their landscape paintings as well. For examples, see works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Giovanni Bellini, Caravaggio. 

As the genre developed, artists painted landscapes in response to the political and social issues that were taking place during their time. In 18th century England, new technologies enabled the landscaping of gardens and the landscaped gardens started to be depicted in art. Landscaping is a symbol of the nation’s increasing wealth and the power of Man over Nature.

In France, especially in the 19th century, landscape paintings became a sought after leisurely activity for many artists. Painting en plein-air developed by the Barbizon School with artists like Camille Corot began to influence artists throughout Europe and the United States and paved the way for Impressionism in France.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) needs little introduction. The man who started the Impressionist Movement with a painting, ‘Impression, Sunrise’ (1873) and was critiqued for his painting depicting a sunrise by art critique Louis Leroy, went on to paint more impressions of landscapes and cityscapes. 

‘Poppy Field’ or ‘Coquelicots’ (1873) was painted in Argenteuil, the place where Monet called home. He moved to Argenteuil with his wife Camille and son Jean after his return from England in 1871. ‘Coquelicots’ was painted en plein-air, in open-air, which is the way Monet preferred to paint. When he was painting, portable easels were made easily available and paints can be bought in tubes, much like today, which made painting outside a studio accessible. 

In this painting, the viewer can see an expanse of land with the foreground dotted red with poppies. Two figures—a mother and daughter pair—are inserted into the landscape, indicating the Classical notions of landscape paintings: landscapes as a backdrop to human activity. The painting is postcard perfect with muted hues of greens, blues and reds; soft browns can also be found. The visual sense is one of blurriness which can be detected in all of Monet’s paintings. This blurriness adds an element of the abstract to his work. It also underscores the Movement’s name—Impressionism. As with all impressions, the details are often obscured and only an “impression” is formed of reality.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Poppies1873, Oil on canvas, H. 50; W.65 cm. Paris, Musée d’Orsay (Etienne Moreau-Nélaton donation, 1906) © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

What is a Haibun:

A Haibun is a form of writing that originated in Japan in the 17th century. The form combines a prose poem with a haiku, a very short poem. Haibun has a wide range that could include a short story, an essay, a journal entry, even a memoir piece but it is usually used to describe a trip and (in my view) can be seen as a travelogue of sorts. 

The creator of the haibun was a Japanese man named, Matsuo Bashō. He wrote about his travels, often paying tribute to specific patrons and events. 

A typical haibun would pay homage to a place, person, object or event through its description of the subject in an objective manner. The prose will be followed by a haiku in finishing. Mary Ellen’s work is a fine example of a haibun, written in English. 

For those who are interested in this form of writing, you can visit this website for more examples.

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Pristine Thoughts by Yogesh Chandra

When a curious did try to please the room 

Inside a box which will never be unfastened

And the strange edge, stagnant and surrounded by celestial imaginations

But what of the unseen or the unfelt

And how to believe on such blinded, to the skeptic or the believer

In a room, where light will not show its face

But what is it that so securely takes away ten thousand sorrows at a time

And that one soul, who will not believe a single thing

But why is such a corrosive thing, untrue and universally publicized

Which is bitter to the ones on that free flowing line

To the one who never compromises, he shall be taken to exile

And his clothes will be snatched and his flesh fastened to that tree 

Where the heavenly spirits did visit each night, so they say

To see, to feel, but what of the mind which never felt a thing 

Besides the one thing, poverty

Now that the soldiers take you away, 

But none a warrior left here to take away your imaginations

And when at the cross-road, that fine stone, and the splitting strings, 

And that automobile which will not stop creating this

To the broken, there needs to be something worth living for

Some sought love, some sought rejection

And what of the others

But never will a thought so explicit be allowed to take control over you

In this society and the next, it is highly contagious

Or what the creative shall say will never be heard

And he will be placed in that lunatic asylum

Where, beside the calm and the polite rods, grilled so sophisticatedly

But to believe in it, is to remain calm for the rest of this injurious life

Beside you, there is another soul, and the writings on the wall

He is brilliant, so the physiatrist gives him more pills

Now that every soul who has ever seen madness shall never see the pleasure in the gifted lines, but it is no game for the commoner

They will take you away and you will never see the art in your room again

 

About the Poet:

Yogesh Chandra is from Fiji.  He writes Poetry and Novels and is currently a Post-Graduate Student at the University of the South Pacific. His first book is entitled ‘The Tragedy of our Lives’ and can be found on Amazon Stores. He is currently working on a novel ( a psychological thriller) forthcoming mid 2018. 

 

Eva’s Comments:

‘Pristine Thoughts’ by Yogesh Chandra conjured up images of René Magritte’s work. This poem is angsty, urgent and shouts out to be heard. The imagery that Chandra uses to evoke my response to his poem is that of entrapment within a space/room— in this case, one’s imagination or the creative mind—that the world may not get. So “more pills” are shoved down the throat of “another soul”. It reminds me of writing not for others but for yourself, writing not “to please the room”. It speaks to me about staying true to the craft. As a writer, I understand the commerciality of one’s work, the sales which translate to figures that your work can churn but yet, I remain fervent in my belief that writing is not always about commerciality; writing is soul food and thus cathartic and not everyone can get what you’re writing about! This poem reminds me to remain strong and resilient to what my writing can do for me and for my readers who get it. I reflect and think about the cathartic nature of the written word when I stare into the horizon beyond the room that confines me.

About the Artist:

René Magritte [1898 – 1967] was born René François Ghislain Magritte in Lessines Belgium. He is known for his surrealist work. To date, Magritte’s most famous work is that of a pipe with the caption: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. This work forces viewers to ask themselves if this is art and/or the meaning behind the image. This artwork—oil on canvas— entitled ‘The Treachery of Images’ (1929) is found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It highlights the gap between image and language.

In ‘La Condition Humaine’ (1933), we see a room with a window resembling a canvas, indicated by the tripod stand of the easel. But wait! If you look closely, you’ll see that there is an easel with a landscape already painted on. Or are we looking through the glass pane out into the landscape beyond? Magritte’s paintings often reference paintings within his painting. Magritte says that “everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” 

Often, the spoken or written language is the only form of expression for many of us. Yet, it is not enough. In images, we find meaning through a visual language. But, that is also not adequate in expressing what we feel, see or do. Despite the gap between image and language, the human condition is universal: wherever we are in the world, love, pain, joy and hurt–the depths of human emotions–are felt similarly. Desires for liberty, self-actualisation and expression are all sought after globally amidst cultural and linguistic differences and diversity.

La Condition Humaine (1933) René Magritte, oil, 100 x 81 cm National Gallery of Art Washington.

 

Dedication:

This publication is dedicated to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain who have sadly left their rooms within a few days of each other. Both Spade and Bourdain committed suicide despite being talented, famous and leading glamorous lives. I am dedicating this publication to them because I understand how so many of us live with pain beyond our abilities to cope; pain that can never be expressed publicly or even privately. “To the broken, there needs to be something worth living for”: where do we start to find that something to live for in this complicated world that we are part of and yet may not want to be? 

 

 

 

Afterglow by Glen Donaldson

It was an after-dinner announcement no one had seen coming. After a great many years spent toying with the idea from the comfort of her upholstered recliner lounge chair with the polished wooden lever at the side, great-grandmother  Bertha Babcock had decided the time was finally right to get her very first spray tan.

It was now or never for the heavyset 88 year old, who, in her youth, had cut a svelte figure working at the local frog canning factory but via the passage of time, the birth of six children and one too many whoopee pies and Portuguese pastries had come these days to resemble more like one half of the popular bingo call for her age – “two fat ladies”.

Bertha Babcock had devoted some time on the internet to checking out tanning salons before deciding on one called AFTERGLOW, about ten minutes drive from her house. In amongst her fact-finding research, which included reading numerous horror stories of spray tans gone wrong (‘a radioactive orange colour which left the wearer smelling like vegetable oil for days’ seemed to be a reoccurring complaint) she’d also managed somehow to take in the episode of the American sitcom FRIENDS where Ross is shown going into an automated tanning booth (like a carwash for humans) and due to a failure to pivot fast enough emerges with a half bronzed body.

But with the occasion of attending her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding spurring her on to want to look her glowing best, Bertha was determined to ignore the stories of other’s misadventures and forge ahead anyway. The person she’d spoken to on the phone at the salon had assured her she would be incapable and experienced hands.

The next morning her son Phillip arrived at the house in his silver-grey Ford Bronco utility to pick her up and drive her to the salon. After the short journey during which Bertha again reminded Philip of her wish to have her ashes scattered at sea upon her death and her desire to visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas sometime prior to that happening, they pulled up in the car park of the salon and began the task of extracting Bertha from the front seat of the car. This took some minutes but eventually, Bertha Babcock was on her way in, supported by her own cane walking stick and her dutiful, ever-patient son guiding and encouraging her with each step.

Inside, Bertha was at once hit with the sterile, over-air-conditioned feel of a big box store and the slightly ‘yeasty’ aroma common to many tanning salons. She eased herself down onto the black leather waiting couch next to a laminated sign emblazoned in gold lettering with the words “We promise to do our best to make you look your best”. Next, the twenty-year-old ‘spray artist’ girl walked through (Bertha thought she heard her introduce herself as ‘Tiffany’ but knew it might just as easily have been ‘Tilly’, ‘Tina’ or even ‘Tigerlilly’). 

Even with her pasted on smile Bertha found her friendly and professional, but couldn’t help wishing for a brief moment she was now facing someone more like Maude from her favourite retro show The Golden Girls. Bertha knew she wasn’t going to enjoy having to get near naked in front of someone as young and bubbly as Tiffany, or whatever her name was.

After receiving her instructions on the poses to adopt while the ‘fake bake’ dark coffee chemical was applied, Bertha was handed a set of attractive nose plugs, a shower cap and a pair of too-tight green goggles and directed to walk down a tiled corridor into the 2nd room on the left that housed the stand up spray booth. The first thing she noticed once inside the room was how unbearably hot it was compared to the outside reception area. She looked up and noticed the sole ceiling fan wasn’t moving. A moment later she realised why. A dead rodent was lodged in it, its legs dangling down toward Bertha. ‘Tiffany’ entered the room and explained in her best cheery tone that Bertha should change into the disposable underwear that lay on a corner benchtop and she would return in a few minutes when it would be time for the hoping-to-be- glamorous great granny to ‘get her bronze on’.

After a ‘respectful’ time, the young salon worker knocked on the door and asked would it be all right to come in. “All ready my dear” was Bertha’s buoyant reply. When ‘Tiffany’pushed back the door she was greeted with a most unusual site. There was the great-grandmother wearing the spray technician’s surgical mask as underwear. She had somehow mistaken it for the g-string spanty that lay next to it. More incredibly she’d somehow managed to manoeuvre ‘into’ it. Spotting the girl’s surprise but not knowing exactly what had warranted it, Bertha quickly switched to comedy mode and asked, “Could you paint some tight ab muscles on me while you’re at it?” The quip seemed to relax the young AFTERGLOW employee and she was able to complete the procedure in under ten minutes with Bertha emerging like a luminous Oompa Loompa ready to go to the wedding the next day.

On the way home from the salon with Philip driving, however, there was one more sun-kissed moment of unintended pantomime. The Bronco utility was pulled over for a police random breath test. Phillip blew into the plastic nozzle offered to him by the officer wearing over-large mirror sunglasses. Though he was a non-drinker, the plastic metal device registered a reading for alcohol, though not enough to put him over the legal driving limit. He found out some time later it was the nearby powerful fumes from his mother’s freshly spray tanned skin that had set off the machine and given a false reading for alcohol.

When the two arrived home, they sat down with the rest of the extended family in the living room. Everyone was eager to hear how Operation Tangerine Dream, as someone had dubbed it, had gone. Laughter and voices babbled happily like a flowing mountain stream for the next hour or so as Bertha Babcock held the floor like a fluff news reporter continually fed by the smiles and gentle gaze of those gathered. When Aunt Ophelia asked “Did they put it on with a paint roller?” the laughter echoed down the hallway and into each and every room of the house.

Soon it was time for the youngest children of the gathered clan to have their bath and as it was not her time to leave, great-grandmother Bertha Babcock insisted on helping. The old bathtub was fashioned from tin and beaten into shape with a flat hammer. It was just big enough for a child to sit in and the water was never more than tepid. Before anyone could protest there was big bronzed Bertha, glowing radioactive orange by this time, arms deep in suds and bubbles scrubbing with a flat brush the grime from her grandchild Leroy’s puppy fat bolstered five-year-old body.

When it was over, the entire house was treated to the genuinely horrible screams of bathetic Bertha reacting with all the grace of a wrecking ball to the sight of herself winding up with no tan at all halfway up her arms, making her look for all the world like she was wearing white gloves. And from a distance, at her granddaughter’s garden wedding held in the city’s Botanical Gardens the next day, that is exactly how it appeared. Unfortunately the super soak mishap also gave rise to a somewhat inebriated Uncle Spida, who was already slurring his words by the time the best man got up to give his speech, remarking on more than one occasion to anyone who would listen, how big Bertha’s newly tanned look ‘fit her like a glove’. 

About the Author:

Glen Donaldson is an Australian flash fiction author with a nutty aftertaste. Glen admits to being fascinated why a group of squids is not called a squad and lists his all-time favourite movie as CAPRICORNE ONE (1977). He blogs at SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

Eva’s Comments:

‘After Glow’ by Glen Donaldson cracked us up so much at CarpeArte Journal that we decided to publish his flash piece in celebration of Short Story Month.

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
― Neil Gaiman

Glen’s piece opened a window to how humour injected adeptly into a short story can fill the reader with mirth and delight. Bertha Babcock’s story made me glow with pure pleasure, chuckle with glee and choke on the surprising imageries so wittily conjured up by Glen’s magical writing.

The Portrait of Dona Rosita Morillo, completed in 1944 by Frida Kahlo, depicted the mother of Eduardo Morillo who was a Mexican diplomat. Eduardo purchased more than 30 paintings from Frida over the years and commisioned her to paint several portraits of his family members. Apparently, this portrait is said to be one of Frida Kahlo’s favourite paintings.

Frida Kahlo needs no introduction. She was born in 1907 and named Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón. This famous Mexican artist is well-known for her self-portraits which she painted many of after a bus accident that left her in debilitating pain. Her paintings have deep autobiographical layers, mixed with fantasy and surrealism reflecting the agony she lived through on a daily basis, her dreams of escapism, and the fantasies that she engaged in to rid her psyche of pain.

Kahlo employs a type of folk-art style in her work which examines questions of identity, class, race and gender in Mexican society. Kahlo is loved by feminists who see her art as representations of the female experience and form.

Glen Donaldson does not remember how he became intrigued by this Mexican artist.  However, what struck him was the relatively short life she led. Kahlo died at the age of 47 after decades of ill health and chronic pain, pain that she had suffered from since the age of eighteen. What intrigued us at CarpeArte was how Glen saw past the sadness of Dona Rosita, indicated by her down-turned lips and found inspiration in the orange glow of her skin to produce ‘Afterglow’, “the story of great-grandmother Bertha Babcock and her ‘now or never’ moment on the eve of her granddaughter’s garden wedding.” (Glen Donaldson) Out of the ashes of pain, flew the phoenix of mirth. There’s hope in laughter.

Image Credit: Hand-painted reproduction of ‘Portrait Of Dona Rosita Morillo’ (1944) [artist unknown]. Originally painted by Frida Kahlo (1944).

Chère Madame… by Susan Cornford

Gabrielle could feel the letter almost slipping from her cold fingers. It was the one that every soldier’s wife most feared; her beautiful, wonderful Guillaume was dead. And it had been so far away, in that horrible Mexican wilderness! The battle had been last April at somewhere unpronounceable. At least he would have been buried in a proper Catholic country. She must change into mourning as soon as she could bear to let go of the letter. But, just now, it seemed the last link with the man she’d loved since …when?

At supper in the Café Riche on the Boulevard des Italiens, after seeing Rigoletto at the Théâtre Italien, she’d been introduced, by her married sister, Suzanne, to this handsome, young officer who looked so glorious in his uniform. Suzanne whispered that he was unmarried and of very good family. Gabrielle decided, then and there, that he would not remain the former for long.

It had been a wonderful courtship: balls and theatre and suppers. But there had also been quiet walks and talks, carefully chaperoned by her Aunt Matilde, in the lovely Tuileries Garden by Catherine de’ Medici’s Palace on the Right Bank. They had been married just before Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon III, had decided to send French troops to Mexico in 1861. It was all about somebody’s unpaid debts, but soldiers must go where and when they are sent. They had hoped he might leave her with a child coming, but that had not happened. Now she was left with nothing of him at all.

Never one for tears, Gabrielle fought her own battle against them and won. Guillaume would want her to live a full and happy life; he’d said so before he’d gone. At least he’d left his affairs in order and his property would come to her without the interference of trustees. She could comfortably do as she pleased.

Gabrielle now recalled another letter that she’d had last week. It was the first from Harriet, her American friend, since the end of their Civil War in May. The two families had met when Harriet and her parents had come to Paris before that war. They were from Boston and were raising funds for what they called the “underground railway” that was helping Negro slaves to escape from Southern plantations. It had sounded quite thrilling and noble to Gabrielle, something she could now throw herself into to get over her grief at losing Guillaume.  

Slowly Gabrielle rose from her chair and carefully she returned the military missive to its envelope and put it into the drawer of her desk. Taking a fresh sheet of writing paper and her pen and ink, she started another letter. “Dearest Harriet …” 

 

About the Author:

Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia, with pieces published or forthcoming in 50-Word Stories, Akashic Books, Antipodean Science Fiction, Ghost Parachute, Medusa’s Laugh, Speculative 66, Subtle Fiction, Switchblade, The Fable Online, The Gambler and The Vignette Review. She considers herself an emerging Flash writer. 

 

Eva’s Comments

Susan submitted her story with this note: “I looked through Met Art website till I found “The Letter” by Camille Corot (c. 1865). This was a story just waiting to be told! So, I dug around in the history of the period & this is what I came up with. The names are a tribute to the new Olympic ice dancers.”

Camille Corot is also known as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875). He was born in Paris at 125 Rue du Bac, and was the middle child of a wealthy family. The family was in the fashion business, his Swiss-born mother a milliner and his father a wig-maker before becoming a businessman, running the millinery shop where Corot’s mother had worked which the Corot family had bought. He started painting late in life, at the age of 26, after a failed apprenticeship as a draper. Luckily for Corot, his parents had invested well and had more than enough money to support his artistic endeavours. Corot started painting under Achille-Etna Michallon who studied landscape painting under Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Corot made historical and realistic landscapes his focus. The former contains mythological animals, signs and symbols, the latter are depictions and renditions of Northern European sceneries fused with flora and fauna recognisable in the northern hemisphere. According to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture,  historical (landscape) paintings were considered better than pure landscape paintings i.e. depictions of flora and fauna as nothing could be learnt from studying painted plants.  Corot liked to mix both historical and realistic landscapes together, forming a unique way of painting landscapes. However, he was not the only painter to do so. Claude Lorrain, a French painter before Corot was famous for his hybrid style too. Lorrain had settled in Rome in the seventeenth century and his artworks consisted of a balanced depiction of pure landscape infused with narratives from the Bible and the Classical past (think Greek and Roman myths). 

Corot belonged to the Barbizon School of painting where an idealised portrayal of nature was preferred. Barbizon painters took their influence from Italian painters and many travelled to Italy for inspiration and Corot was no exception. In Italy, he was able to capture and depict the light favoured by Italian Renaissance artists. Barbizon is a village near the Fontainebleau Forest where the first generation of French painters worked in favour of idealising their native landscape rather than that of Italianate scenes. 

Barbizon painters painted directly from their observation of nature and always in the open-air—en plein air. This way of painting would come to be emulated by the Impressionists.

Camille Corot died in Paris in 1875, a single man, having never married because he swore to devote his life to painting landscapes: “All I really want to do in life … is to paint landscapes. This firm resolve will stop me forming any serious attachments. That is to say, I shall not get married.”—Camille Corot

With this resolve, Corot left behind over 3,000 pieces of artwork but not all were of landscapes. He was also a philanthropist who donated a large part of his wealth (which he made from selling his paintings) to the poor of Paris. He helped support a couple of his artist friends and their families who were not as lucky as he was. Camille Corot is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery. 

Susan’s choice by Corot is entitled ‘The Letter’, depicting a seated woman with a letter on her lap. The colour scheme overall is dull, sombre and drab, a result of the overuse of browns and blacks. (In general, Corot’s paintings are generally rendered in such tones; some are almost like sepia photographs.) The red hair accessory gives this painting a hint of cheerfulness, only to be reduced by the expression on the woman’s face: her eyes are downcast and she is pensive. On closer look, the viewer’s eye notices signs of despondency on the sitter’s face enhanced by the linearity of her lips and the shadows around her eyes. Baudelaire defends Corot’s use of pale colours calling him a “harmonist” more than a “colourist”. I find this reading of Corot’s artworks accurate. There is a quality to his paintings which never fails to emote me. ‘The Letter’ is a good example; I really feel the sitter’s sadness and sense that the letter mustn’t have brought good news. 

CarpeArte Journal loves Susan’s story, considering it a great example of how art has prompted a response in the writer. Her story ends with the start of a letter, indicating the open-ended reading of Corot’s ‘The Letter’. 

Susan’s story pays homage to the new Olympian ice skaters, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Jean-Baptist Camille Corot (1796-1875), The Letter (circa 1865), Oil on wood, 21 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (54.6 x 36.2 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

I Can’t Forget by Townsend Walker

I thought I’d found the peace that I’d come for.  Here in Munich, where I spent a year in college.  A felicitous town with musicians on every corner: Mozart concertos, Bach sonatas, a Billie Holiday tune here and there.  Choirs singing hosannas to the highest lighten even the heavyset Cathedral of Our Lady.

On Wednesday, I strolled into the gardens of the Stadtische Galerie.  The museum was housed in a gold-colored Tuscan villa, once the home of the painter Franz von Lenbach.  The first gallery held Klee’s colorful and cheerful work: Southern Gardens: vivid orange, red, blue and aqua patches and Rose Garden: carnelian, cerise and scarlet geometric figures and a cluster of smiling people.

The next gallery was deserted.  Klee’s Ravaged Place hung on the far wall: a bruise-purple building with a dabbled white roof is askew in the background.  The building once had four walls, but like a stage set only the façade remains.  Its gaping window holes were shaded violet black, wraiths curling behind them.  Two smaller structures tilted in from outside the frame.  Their windows were vacant eyes to the sky.  In the foreground, headstones.

Not different from my last patrol.  A long day.  My unit had beaten off two insurgent attacks and we were a couple miles from base.  We saw the village beyond the ridge.  Smoke, still curling.  Crumbled dun-colored mud houses.  Wooden framing sticking out at unnatural angles.  Fragments of cloth fluttering from splintered windows.  Blackened shards.  Littering the sand, blood-streaked arms and legs and a doll.

The memory emptied me and I slumped on a museum bench, head in my hands, heart pounding.  I was nauseous, like the time in the back of an old bus bumping down a mountain road in Morocco, sucking diesel fumes and greasy mutton.  Hot and I couldn’t get up, trapped between two guys who were asleep.  I squeezed my head tighter and tighter to quiet the clattering explosions in my skull.

My Dad, a Nam vet, never told me about the flashbacks.  But he was career; maybe it’s different for them.  My twin brother Will followed Dad’s lead, until it all ended at Shahi Khot.  I’d stayed away from everything Army until what happened to Will.  But I had to finish what he started.  That’s the way it was with us.  So it was Special Forces and language school.

Someone hit me.  I jumped; nearly knocked the old man down.  Slowly, I saw him, the attendant, a thin wispy-haired man carved by age.

Bitte, are you well?”

Probably, he only tapped me on the shoulder.

“I’ll be fine, danke.

“I never come in this room,” he said.  “Too many thoughts, too many memories I don’t want to have.”

Looking down at him, I asked, “Der Zweite Weltkrieg?”

“Stalingrad,” he said.  “I can’t forget.”

He looked at me, eyes filling with tears.  His lips moved, but no words came out.  Then he placed a thin arthritic hand on my arm and held tight.

I walked slowly out of the Galerie and back through the Plaza of Our Lady.  Leave was over.  That evening I took the train up to Frankfurt for my flight.  I’d be in Kabul in twenty-four hours, and sign up for another tour.  I’m not haunted by memories there.

 

A Note on the Author

Townsend Walker lives in San Francisco. His novella La Ronde was published in 2015 and his short stories have appeared in over seventy-five literary journals. “A Little Love, A Little Shove” and “Holding Tight” were nominated for PEN/O.Henry Awards. The two stories are included in his new collection, 3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies. Townsend wrote A Guide for Using the Foreign Exchange Market, Managing Risk with Derivatives, and Managing Lease Portfolios, during his career in finance. In addition to writing stories, Townsend conducts a creative writing workshop at San Quentin Prison.

Townsend submitted I Can’t Forget along with an image of Paul Klee’s painting, ‘Destroyed Place’, which Klee completed in 1920. However, in the story, Klee’s ‘Ravaged Place’ is referred to. On further reading of Walker’s ekphrasis of the painting, he seems to be referring more to ‘Destroyed Place’: “The building once had four walls, but like a stage set only the façade remains.  Its gaping window holes were shaded violet black, wraiths curling behind them.  Two smaller structures tilted in from outside the frame.  Their windows were vacant eyes to the sky.  In the foreground, headstones.” [‘Ravaged Place’ is actually entitled ‘Ravaged Land’.]

This artwork points to Klee’s skills as a draughtsman, indicated by the buildings. The two-dimensional surface and shapes indicate the influence of Cubism, which Klee discovered during his travels to Paris where he met Robert Delaunay and discovered Picasso and Braque’s works in galleries. The sense of the surreal is highlighted by the hands sweeping from the headstones towards the vacant buildings, rendering the landscape a ghostlike presence. Death permeates the piece, signified by the dark sombre tones of black against purple.

Walker’s story is a great example of how art can emote and bring forth stories buried in our unconscious. It is also a great example of how a writer can combine Ekphrasis in a work of fiction. Visual Art as prompts to writing is not a new concept because art triggers memories, sensations and emotions in each of us; I Can’t Forget indicates this.

 Eva’s Comments

Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, to a German father and a Swiss mother. His parents were both musicians; his father was a music teacher in Bern where the family settled in 1897, after moving around in Switzerland for some time.

Music and art filled Klee’s life since childhood. Encouraged by his parents, he studied the violin. Although he was very good at the instrument, he chose to focus on visual art during his teenage years. However, his parents were not that supportive of his forays into art, preferring that he continued with music.

Against his parents’ wishes, Klee left for Munich in 1898 for art studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and briefly attended Franz von Stuck’s class there. He chose to settle in Munich in 1906 after spending some years travelling to Italy, France and living some years back in Bern.

In Munich, Klee focused on graphic art for the most part. A chance meeting with the abstract artist, Kandinsky, in 1911 would change the course of his life. Kandinsky recognised talent in Klee’s work and was very supportive of him.

In 1912, Klee exhibited in Munich’s Galerie Goltz in the second exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a group formed by Russian emigre painters (Kandinsky included) in response to the rejection of Wassily Kandinsky’s work, ‘Last Judgement’, from an exhibition. Der Blaue Reiter is also an art movement important in the development of Expressionism; this art movement lasted only 3 years from 1911 to 1914 but has left the art world with a vast collection of artworks which can be viewed at Lenbachhaus, Munich.

Paul Klee was very interested in colours and was an avid researcher in colour theory. He wrote extensively on the effects of colour on art. His lectures at the Bauhaus School of Art, where he taught for 10 years starting in 1921, have been published under the name, Paul Klee Notebooks, a two-volume work, considered as important to modern art theory as Leonardo Da Vinci’ s Treatise on Paintings is for the Renaissance.

A trip to Tunis, Morocco, in 1914 impressed Klee so much that he would later write, saying, “colour and I are one” proclaiming himself a “painter.” From this period on, Klee started to experiment with abstraction. Already a skilled draughtsman, he combined his abilities in draftsmanship—straight lines forming shapes like rectangles and triangles—with colours to form a unique style—visual art, combining Expressionism, Cubism, Abstraction and Surrealism, all associated with music—that some scholars have recognised to be influenced by his earlier schooling in music. Perhaps, Klee could be a synesthete like his friend, Kandinsky.

Klee was conscripted as a soldier of the German Reich in March of 1916. Fortunately, for him, he spent most of the war in an office which spared him from the horrors on the war front. Klee’s diaries and letters indicated his detachment from the war. But the war would leave profound impressions on him. The death of his friends August Macke and Franz Marc devastated him. He responded by creating pen and ink lithographs dealing with war themes. Perhaps it was during this time that Klee would come to say “I paint in order not to cry”, a phrase that has come to represent his works made during and after WWI. Critics have said that Klee’s pieces during and after the war indicated his detachment: Klee commented on the devastation brought by war by abstracting it, representing the horror by symbols and leitmotifs.

“The more horrible this world (as today, for instance), the more abstract our art, whereas a happy world brings forth an art of the here and now.” — Paul Klee (diary, 1915).

Paul Klee passed away in 1940, in Switzerland, from a wasting disease that engulfed him towards the end of his life. The pain caused by Scleroderma would enter his later work. I think apart from expressing his physical pain on canvas, Klee also drew from the trauma incurred during the war and allowed this to find expression in his work. Paul Klee left behind an oeuvre consisting of just under 10,000 pieces of artworks. Although born in Switzerland, he never obtained Swiss citizenship because the Swiss authorities felt that his artwork was too revolutionary for the period.

Paul Klee’s work can be viewed worldwide as well as at the Paul Klee Centre in Bern.

 

 

Image Credit: ‘Destroyed Place’, 1920, Oil on paper, 8 3/4 x 7 5/8 in. (22.3 x 19.5 cm), Lenbachhaus, Munich.

Of life – by A P Shells

 

(i)

I have told you too many times

Have told you too many times I cannot

Told you too many times I cannot take it anymore

Too many times I cannot take it anymore I have told you:

the lacerations
red tattoos, curves into a
smile: savoring a covenant
I can’t seem to remember:

(ii)

Of life, I am no placid man – there is screaming

in the house, yet, a severed ear is a deafening one:

– – – – –

my body, a portrait of
sanguine insanity —
where are these brushes,
and whose favorite color is

red.

(iii)

Of catharsis, I understood none –

yet there is brevity in a severed ear,

or the portrait of.

(iv)

him

(v)

it shouldn’t have been

me.

 

Author’s Comments:

The poem is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. It has raised questions on identity, confrontation with situations in life, and catharsis. The poem reflects that.

I am drawn to this picture for its honesty. There is something about this picture that prompts us to think about pain and resolution – why did he mutilate his ear? And why did he create this self-portrait? What did he hope to achieve? Was he hoping to achieve anything at all? I’m not too sure about the answers to those questions. There may not be answers too. As with life, we are very capable. We may live amidst the quandaries, amidst the questions we have no answers to. We do not strictly calculate everything we do. That is fine. Yet to that end, the picture draws me in to ponder.

Eva’s Comments:

When I received this poem, I’d just finished watching the animated film, Loving Vincent. It’s the first film in the world that’s made entirely of oil paintings. Amazing! Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, this animated film has gone on the win many awards.

Vincent Van Gogh needs no introduction. He is the most mythologised artist of the 19th century. Many interpretations of his oeuvre have largely been focused on his mental condition. Art Historians know that Van Gogh was institutionalised, of his own accord, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was during this period that he painted his most famous and popular piece, The Starry Night. This artwork inspired the song, (Vincent) Starry Starry Night by Don Mclean. This song never fails to bring tears. “They would not listen, they did not know how perhaps they’ll listen now.”

Vincent Van Gogh touched everyone he came into contact with; this was portrayed clearly in Loving Vincent. Van Gogh continues to touch our lives today as indicated by A P Shell’s On Life.

Van Gogh is categorised as an Expressionist painter because of his style of painting. Expressionism originated in the early 20th-century in Germany.  It is characterised by subjective perspectives depicted in images or text (poetry). These perspectives are highly emotive due to their distortion of reality. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of their felt experience rather than the physical reality surrounding them. For Vincent, it was Nature that he related to and found catharsis in. Vincent Van Gogh was ahead of his time as an Expressionist painter. A more accurate label to categorise him would be ‘post-Impressionist’, according to British twentieth-century art critic Roger Fry.

It’s good to note that Vincent Van Gogh did not paint for long. His painting career lasted between five to eight years. By the time of his death, in 1890, he had created over 800 paintings, all inspired by the people he’d met, loved and known, and by the natural beauty he saw around him.

 

Image credit:

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm© The Courtauld Gallery, London.

The Man in Shades by Tiffany S L

The man in shades walked into our car porch as my aunt Lily was on her way out to catch the bus to school. He sauntered in, head erect and entered the front door, left ajar for Ahmed, our driver, to come in to tell Papa when the car was ready.

I was three years old, playing in my room when the man in shades strolled in. He tousled my hair and asked me to play police and thieves with him. I didn’t answer. Then he took off his shades and pulled a balaclava over his face, leaving his eyes exposed.

“Ready to play?” he asked menacingly.

I stared mutely back. His eyes were the sort that you didn’t want to look long into; they bored into mine. The corner of his lips curled in a smirk, the glint from his gold tooth mesmerised me. Time hung in the air for a few seconds before he put his shades back on over his face cloth. I felt much better.

“Where is Papa?” he asked, pointing a revolver that he’d retrieved from his overalls at my temple.

The cold steel of his gun made an impression on the side of my head.

I leaned against the door jamb and stared up at him, half wondering if he really meant to play with me or was just being polite like the many adults who came often to see Papa. The steel revolver was still pointed at my head when another man in a balaclava appeared.

“Bang!” the man in shades said and winked at me. He pulled the gun away and blew into the mouth of the pistol as if blowing out a flame. Years later, I would remember this image when watching cowboy movies.

“Take me to your Papa,” he coaxed, smiling, putting his gun back into the front pocket of his overalls. That golden tooth again.

I ran to my parents’ room with both men following.

In the room, I saw Mummy seated at the edge of her bed. When she saw me, she went berserk, shouting to the man in shades to leave me be.

He laughed a kind of bemused laugh, winked and nudged me towards Mummy. She held me tight and told me to be quiet.

Loud banging was followed by lots of shouting.

“What are you doing?” she screamed at the man in shades, pounding his chest with clenched fists. “How can you? We trusted you!”

He laughed again, amused, took hold of her right wrist and led her back to the edge of the bed. She didn’t put up a fight.

“Sit,” he commanded and she did.

“Come out, Ah Lee!”

“No!!!” screamed Mummy. “Stay inside.”

Diam, you damned woman!” the man in shades retorted, taking out his gun.

She shrank into the bed.

More loud banging before Papa shouted, “NO!!! What do you want, Ah Fook?”

Papa had locked himself in the bathroom when he heard Mummy shouting hysterically. He is a man who always thinks on his feet. Both my parents would giggle in glee like two school children in cahoots when retelling this part of the story, Papa proud of his wits, Mummy proud that she stood up to the man in shades. I would feel the coldness of steel against my temple.

Bent double in a quaking heap, right in the corner between the built-in wardrobe and the bedside table, was Ahmed the driver. His knees were propped up, his bare feet in a puddle of water.

“I’ve got a gun, Ah Lee,” the man in shades spoke loudly into the bathroom door while tapping it with the butt of his gun.

Papa finally emerged, with a towel around his waist. He still had his pyjama top on.

The next thing I remember was being lifted over the fence and placed in the arms of the neighbour’s helper. My nanny said something I didn’t understand and scurried away quickly.

I was too young to remember the entire tale of how we were robbed in daylight. Many years later when a pair of sunglasses on my boyfriend’s face triggered a memory of that day, I asked Mummy about the robbery. She rummaged through some papers in an untidy drawer and found a newspaper cutting which made headlines in the early 70s – “Family Robbed at Gunpoint by Trusted Contractor”.

*

We moved to another part of Singapore soon after the burglary. The experience had traumatised everyone. Father hired security guards to stand vigil at the new house. This house had a long drive way which the Feng Shui Master had advised against because it meant that Wealth would have a long way to travel before He could enter the front door. Unfortunately, Papa did not heed this piece of precious advice. Seven years later, he declared bankruptcy. This changed our lives, my live, profoundly because for the years until I turned sixteen, we became homeless: we had to live with one relative after another, with whoever would take us in. It was the year I turned 10 and I learnt quickly what goodwill meant.

*

My maternal grandfather was the first to give us a home. He lived with two of my unmarried aunts in a terraced house. In that house, also lived my uncle, his son, and his young wife. Another daughter, Aunty Su, lived about a ten minute cycle away in one of the many streets off the main road that led to the Catholic church at the top of the hill.

My most favourite thing to do every evening before dinner was to take the Chopper – my pride and joy – out for a cycle around the neighbourhood. I loved my white Adidas shorts which made my legs longer; it was the only pair I would wear. I am twelve and growing breasts. But I could still wear a T-shirt over my bare pre-pubescent chest without attracting untoward attention.

I cycled along the roads to the park at the top of the hill next to the Catholic church. I’d stop outside the park where I waited with baited breath. There, I’d hope to catch a glimpse of him – my first crush – leaving the church to go home after choir practice on Thursday evenings. What joy it was to be young and in love. How wonderful it was to feel the wind in my hair, to feel my body in action. My periods had started two years ago, making me feel more a woman than a child. Mummy was awkward in accepting my bodily changes. I felt uncomfortable in myself too. Years later I learned  that ancient communities celebrated this female rite of passage with a ceremony. I lit a candle when I turned 45; menopause was on its way, this needed celebration too.

*

I was relatively happy although we had no permanent home. I grew up with plenty of freedom but lots of responsibilities.  Every Thursday evening I had to cycle form Grandfather’s to my Aunty Su’s to pick up my cousin, Meredith, and take her over for dinner. Of course, I would make sure to cycle past the church. Meredith would sit pillion and I would ride the Chopper, hovering off the seat because really there was only space for one person on this bike. It felt good to feel the strength of my limbs as I cycled us home.

One Thursday, a man in shades walked out of the front door when he heard the metal gate rattling. Aunty Su had said I could wait in the car porch for Meredith’s school bus to drop her off, then take her to Grandfather’s. Both Aunty Su and Uncle Bill were usually at work when I collected Meredith. I hadn’t expected anyone to be home.

“Hi, I’m Paul,” the man in shades said, extending his right arm for a handshake.

I blushed at this intrusion.

“Hello,” I replied, remembering my manners, shaking his hand.

It turned out that Paul was Uncle Bill’s younger brother who had just returned from Australia. He was staying at the house now but nobody thought to tell me this.

I was smitten by Paul’s youth and good looks.

I waited in anticipation for Thursday to come round again. From waiting in the car porch, I graduated to waiting for Meredith in Aunty Su’s living room. Uncle Paul would always let me in but never before a hug or a soft caress of my cheek. His touch fanned the embers of many teenage fantasies that had been ignited by the myriad 50-cent Mills and Boons novels borrowed from the second hand book store near the local cinema. His shades would hang on his head like a hairband girls wear to keep their fringes up. They were Ray-Ban, I discovered. He looked divine. Uncle Paul always asked me something about myself. He wanted to know if I liked school, what books I was reading, about my friends. His attention to my waffling meant the world to me. Father never asked about my day.

During this period, my parents were preoccupied with many things. Papa with bankruptcy and Mummy with looking for part-time work. Papa was at work somewhere, a place he seldom mentioned because this period were dark times for both of them and all of us. He’d leave work in the morning with a brooding face and return home in a cloud of thunder. I was left on my own daily while Mummy spent whatever energy she had left on my youngest sibling who was still a child of seven. I learnt to parent myself. As for my second sister, she tacked along with me when she could or was left to her own devices too. I learnt to parent her. We seldom speak of the days when we used to live with Grandfather.

One Thursday, Uncle Paul let me in as usual. After a warm hug and his usual caress, he invited me into his room. He stroked my bare legs lovingly and told me how pretty I was as I sat on his single bed. Then he moved closer and kissed me gently on my forehead, then proceeded to kiss my left cheek, the top of my nose and then my right cheek. I sat there, frozen from the weight of his body against mine. I was also pinned against the wall by his bed. I didn’t know whether to push him away, to stop him, because he was my uncle. At the same time, I was enjoying his amorous touches and full attention. I started to feel the prickle of his growing moustache when he got to my lips. His breath tasted of coffee and cigarettes. Soft kisses were followed by the probing of his wet tongue prying my tightly closed lips open. At this point, I could feel panic and bile rising from my stomach to the base of my throat. The metal gate made a noise as Meredith unlatched it to let herself in. Uncle Paul moved away from me and led me out of his bedroom. It was time to take Meredith back to Grandfather’s. I hurried away as Uncle Paul scurried back into his room.

The same thing happened again the following Thursday but this time, the bile came up from the base of my throat and I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. I locked myself in there which made him panic. I only let myself out again when Meredith arrived; he knocked on the door to let me know this. I walked out of the bathroom without looking at him, took Meredith’s hand and headed for the Chopper.

Thursday rolled around once more. I unlatched the metal gate with trepidation. His bedroom was both a foreboding and attractive place. I wanted to know where the kissing would take us: Mills and Boons never specified and the movies weren’t very telling either. At this point, I knew something was not right yet I couldn’t get away from him. He didn’t stop me either, beckoning me to come inside, flirting with me throughout. “I won’t hurt you” he promised and I was ensnared. He played me along for months. The petting and caresses had started to make both of us lose control. His kisses were accompanied by heavy breathing and grunting as his hands moved greedily over my body. Physically, I was like a feline on heat, yielding to his every touch. That day, while kissing me and fumbling at his zip with one hand, with his other groping me, his hand settled on the padding of my sanitary towel. He pushed me away gruffly, “Why didn’t you tell me?” he growled before walking away, leaving me bewildered on his bed, wondering if I had done something wrong. For years, I would blame myself. How I hated the M-word.

The next time I saw him again, I was fourteen. It was at the golf club. Mummy was with me.

“How are you?” he asked and smiled at me after saying hello to Mummy. He reached out his hand automatically. I moved away.

“You’re practically a woman,” The awkwardness was unbearable.

Charm is his middle name, I thought bitterly. By now, I’ve heard all about his girlfriends as the relatives speculated about his choices. Each speculation drove the knife deeper into my aching, confused heart.

Years later, at my psychoanalyst’s practice, I learned what ‘grooming’ meant. I learned also to move on. I had kept this shameful secret for over 30 years, sweeping the shame, hurt and betrayal under the carpet of my unconscious. Teetering on ‘my fault/his fault’, I spent my adult years blaming myself, then blaming him, but mostly blaming myself. I’ve finally come to accept that in cases like mine, the fault always lies with the adult, never the child. It has taken me decades to reach forgiveness: I’ve learnt to finally forgive myself. The #MeToo movement of 2017 finally gave me courage and a voice: no more victim blaming.

Yet, when I see a man with a pair of shades on his head, I would remember that icy sensation of a gun to my temple, like the sensation of opening Aunty Su’s metal gate that allowed me into her car porch—a sensation mixed with trepidation and curiosity. Remembering both events, a knot would tighten just below my stomach where my uterus starts. When my skin touches metal every so often, my muscle memory would remember this sensation of cold steel against warm skin. I would remember a particular man in shades, someone I called Uncle Paul. I no longer call him uncle.

Eva’s Comments:

This story touched my heart. It is longer than the word count stipulated for this journal but I’m publishing it because the story resonated with me on many levels. (Flash Fiction can be between 100 – 3,000 words, in some cases. CarpeArte Journal has chosen to stop at 1,000 and to accept 1,500 maximum in exceptional cases.)

I love this story for its balanced portrayal of loss—the loss of innocence and the loss of trust in an adult who did more wrong than right. The narrator has not conveyed bitterness nor hatred for the person responsible for her loss but has told the story with all the elements that entail story telling: beginning, middle, end, with conflict and then resolution, although ‘yet’ provides for an open-ended conclusion and not so much a resolution. The resolution can be found in the narrator’s capacity to forgive herself, in my view. This is also a story of trauma and remembrance, of nostalgia and yearning. The pull and tug of the subconscious forces at work to repel and recall traumatic experiences are the marvel of the human psyche.

I’m publishing this story in support of #MeToo because the #MeToo Movement has given many women a voice and platform to courageously come forward to name and shame their perpetrators. It has certainly given this writer an opportunity to come out and write her story down. Now, it must be noted that I don’t know if this is fiction or memoir. Many times, memory can be both.

**Disclaimer**

The illustration, a wall mural, by an anonymous artist, was the image that accompanied this story. I have asked Tiffany SL where she found this piece of artwork and who the artist is. She was unable to give me more details, other than she took a photo of it in a restaurant. She told me that when she saw this mural, she was immediately taken back to a forgotten past in Singapore where children cycled freely on the streets and when Singapore was still filled with innocence. She was inspired to write her story down after seeing this piece of street art.

Indeed, the children on the mural is a picture of happiness. Their faces resplendent with joy; childhood ought to be like this. The mural also reminded me of my own childhood in Singapore where I did cycle freely and where life was much simpler and happier.

For legal reasons, I am inserting a disclaimer here to say that in publishing this piece of artwork, the journal’s intent is to share art, in this case, public art, so that art enthusiasts can learn more about different genres.

On murals

Murals are artworks that have been painted  or applied directly on walls, ceilings or any permanent surfaces. Art historians say that the earliest murals date back to Upper Palaeolithic times which make mural paintings one of the oldest art forms in human history.

Murals are found in many places from caves to tombs to temples to churches, and in people’s homes. During the Middle Ages, murals were painted on dry (secco) plaster. It was not until the 14th century, circa 1300 CE that artists started to work on fresh plaster, leading to what we know today as frescos. Painting on wet plaster meant  a higher quality of mural painting could be achieved. A famous example of a fresco that has lasted since the 13th century is Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ (1490s) at the Convento di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

In the 1920s, an art movement called Mexican Muralism, where murals were used to send social, nationalistic and political messages of reunification under the post Mexican Revolution government, saw to the huge production of murals with overtly political messages. This lasted up until the 1970s and was headed by Mexican artists like Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. The Mexican Muralism Movement impacted many artists in Mexico where the tradition of painting murals calling for activism in the political and national arenas has become part of the art scene in the country.

There are many murals found on the walls of heritage buildings in Singapore where this image is from. Street Art has become a commodity in this nation-state where muralists are commissioned by the authorities to paint images of a Singapore that no longer exist

On my travels to North Vietnam, I saw murals along a stretch of busy road. This indicates that mural paintings are found everywhere from North America to Europe to Asia.