Monday, April 03, 2006

"So what's he like … this Barrie J. Davies?" by julie Mahoney

It's been a hard day.
I hate the world.
Snarling, I stumble through the front door and slump into a chair ready for someone to bite.
I glance through the kitchen window and along the garden wall hundreds of smiley pebble faces grin back at me: it's Barrie's new Pebbles on Acid art project! The corners of my mouth curl upwards and I spring up to put the kettle on, listen to my latest CD, wonder what's in the fridge.
In a parallel universe the other me - the one who didn't throw in her lot with conceptual (i.e. eccentric and penniless) artist Barrie J. Davies - finds it hard to transcend the tedium of everyday life and is the poorer for it.

This is what I'm explaining to a girlfriend - whose choice of partner has been more, er, conventional - as her eyes investigate our kitchen.
She stares over my shoulder. I look round to our pots and pans hanging from a rail. Amongst them dangles a bright yellow cap with 'THINKING' printed on it.
"Y'know … thinking cap," I say. "Barrie's … he calls it Headwear for Conceptualists."
She nods without meaning it while her fingers absent-mindedly fiddle with something they found on the kitchen surface. I watch as she becomes aware of the miniature jam jar in her hand. She lifts it up to read the scribbled replacement label.
I remember Barrie's eyes lighting up when I brought the jam home from a residential conference. He ate its contents - raspberry - and filled the pot with something quite different.
My friend's lips mouth Shaved Remains of an IKEA Pencil and then, as I fully expect, her brow furrows and her nose wrinkles up.
She drops the artwork onto the Formica as if she might catch something from it.
I can't think of an excuse - so I invite her into the lounge.
(In the passageway, our cat's appearance distracts her attention away from a huge fluorescent canvas sporting '£1,000,000' in 4' black numerals.)
Entering the lounge, she points to the wall. "Well, I suppose Barbara Cartland fans would like it," and smirks at her own joke.
I manage a chuckle and invite her to take a seat. Should I say that the 8' by 4' oblong of candy-pink fluffy material is actually called Painting for Barbara Cartland?
Well, I don't and we chat about this and that.
While we're talking, her eyes keep travelling to a small box frame on the wall. During a lull, she cranes her neck towards it. I scrutinise her face, side-on, as she sees a single matchstick and underneath the hand-written words 'if you don't like this drawing, you know what to do'.
Her head jerks back and she touches her hair. An instant later, though, she's laughing in spite of herself. "Actually," she concedes, "I have to admit, that's rather good."
I nod - maybe she's getting it, after all?
The subject changes to Valentine's Day and she can't wait to tell me about receiving a dozen red roses from her beau.
Eventually, she asks the inevitable and I present to her a child's red plastic bucket with a large hole cut out of the side.
She takes it from me as if it's radioactive.
I say, "It's called Endless Love," and wait.
Lost for a moment, she runs a finger round the hole tracing the shape of a heart.
I think her eyes well up.
"Ah … now that's very special," she says and smiles at me.
She's finally got it.

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