Trick of the Light

Standing
in groups of two and three,
they shuffle their feet, clutching
copies of the gallery catalogue. A few
might surreptitiously sneak a glance
at the page about me
to see
what the experts say
then with varying degrees of
pretension and sincerity
they speak of
my smile.
Many agree
that it is reminiscent
of the Mona Lisa’s so called ‘mysterious’
twist of the lips. They search for
meaning in this.

Warming to their game
where words are plastic swords
meant not to wound but entertain
the players babble blunt banalities,
clashing torn and ragged clichés
as they describe disparities
between our portraits;

the way her gaze
is constantly on every face 
– no matter where her viewers stand,
while I am caught in a faraway fantasy,
yet always, as they turn away,  my eyes
seem to swivel in their direction.

It makes them shiver,
but it’s only a trick
of the light.

My creator was
a visionary who believed
that I would evolve into my own unique design.
She drew my lines lightly in warm pastels that reflected
the promise of a Botticelli’s sketch, but
sticky fingers grabbed the canvas,
brushing their hues over me.

Scratch my surface
and you will discover
a dozen semblances of this face,
reflecting every school from cold realism
to the lily-fresh hope of art-nouveau.
Each illusion contains a
modicum of truth;
an inch or so
of me.

When I reached this gallery
I needed to be categorised. I look like
an English dreamer
an ethereal Pre-Raphaelite
yet they placed me amongst the Impressionists
since I was shaped with bright lines
creating a sense of reality
by employing
a trick
of the light.

If you were a painting, what kind of painting would YOU be? Any thoughts on this?

©Jane Paterson Basil

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22 thoughts on “Trick of the Light

  1. Each illusion contains a
    modicum of truth;
    an inch or so
    of me.

    Isn’t that so true of any art? We work our butts off, and in the end, we don’t have the comprehensive truth, the whole truth, but rather a modicum of it. I’m pretty thoroughly reconciled to that fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always wanted to stand in front of the sort of stuff that’s displayed in the Tate Modern in London – a pile of newspapers or a dead snail on a dusty book – and start a pretentious discussion on what the artist was trying to SAY, how his pile of newspapers SPEAKS to me, and how frightfully RELEVANT his dead snail is, but I’ve never found the right person to join me. I don’t suppose you’ll be in London anytime soon?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I haven’t been to the art gallery for a year or two, but next time I go, I’m going to take your magnificently imaginative poem with me (I’ve already copied it off)and walk around the gallery listening to the chatter, reading your poem, looking for the hidden smirks on the portraits, and tune into the sounds of their voices….. my next visit is sure to be an enthralling one.. xxxxx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Look out for the folks who are pretending to know more than they do – they’re fun to listen to. If they say a painting speaks to them they probably mean it reminds them on=f the puppy they had when they were six years old, and if they talk about what the picture means they just want to hear the sound of their voices.

      I love art galleries – not just because of the art 🙂 xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reminds me of my younger brother and I. We were at the Guggenheim Museum in Los Angeles once. Spotted a Rembrandt.

        “Too much brown, don’t you think?”

        “It’ll never catch on.”

        “Not a crayon work in sight.”

        “Tsk. Tsk. And to think. This was supposed to be an art museum.”

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Aaah – the Mona Lisa with the secret smile and eyes that see. What would she see if she looks at me? A voluptuous reclining Rubinesque nude? An abstract Picasso? A genteel belle strolling through Monet’s landscapes? A figure of dots in an indigenous songline? All of these, depending on the mood and day 🙂

    1. Poor Mona – sitting there trying to look relaxed with all those people staring at her, theorising… how can she tell them that she needs the bathroom, but mean ole Leo won’t let her go until he’s finished painting… how can she admit to us that her bottom is a little damp, and when he finally sets her free she’s going to have to walk backwards out of the door? 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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