Barry is a mind-painter. He colours in the grey. He is slow and
deliberate and applies the colours with his tongue, twisting it slowly
into the ear of his canvas. His words, selected from his palette with
care, create beaches, oceans, bronzed dancing girls, bright iced
cocktails, warmth, exposure. A desire to be limp and full of
nothingness. All clay and cloudlight easydreams. His whispers can make
anyone anyone and anyone knows everyone wants this.
It was not always this way. There was a time when Barry's art was not
known. The days were hazy grey and smudged. He was a postbox,
swallowing but never full. In the streets the hurry people brushed past
him in quickmove sweeps; brooms and dust, cloth and grime. Barry was
through-seen. But one day all was upset and when the smoke cleared
there stood a very visible man indeed. A wanted man.
Thinking back now, Barry cannot remember clearly how the change took
place. A man with a dark raincoat and a school; maybe also a sign, no,
a poster. He had gone there and, no, he cannot remember. He apologises.
He only knows the present. What was done then can be hard to unlock for
Subjects come in many disguises. The smokers and the compulsives lie
down with the paranoid and the phobics. Hand-washing, spiders, blood
pressure; as far as the eye can see they queue, snakey-like in curious
squiggles. Every day they come, hoping for some kind of charm and every
day but one they are turned away.
Months back a woman with too much free time came in to find out who she
had been in a past life. While she was dreaming, Barry gently lifted
her skirt and spread her lifeless legs, misting the room with sweet
violet scent. She woke up certain she had been a French prostitute in
the revolution. Wonder-eyed and gabblegabbling, she tipped him two
hundred pounds, claiming this explained everything.
Not that Barry does it for money. Oh no. He takes the money only
because it draws more people to him. It's strange. The more he is
given, the more people want to see him. No, it is done for the sake of
art, for the knowledge, for the dabs he applies that make up their pale
faces as they drift in mocksleep. For reasons that hover round his head
unseen, etching on the back of his brain secret little suggestions and
Another time a lad of eighteen with an Amex card and slicked-back hair
ordered the artist to cure him of his gak habit. It was the only
problem he asked to be treated for, though Barry could see a fair few
more. A few minutes later, staring at the rag doll on the black
leather, Barry sketched a memo inside his client's head. Not only would
he never be able to sniffsniff cocaine again, he would
never&;#8230;what was it? Oh yes. He wouldn't be able to do that
again. But really it was a kindness.
Next week a man with a red tie and smile will take his place on the
chair. Barry has determined that this portrait will be his finest yet.
He has been looking forward to this moment as the defining one of his
career. He's a mind painter, you see. Even now he is inspecting and
polishing his tools. Cleaning, sharpening. Preparation for a
masterwork. Hours and hours, cleaning and sharpening. It will be
devastating and it will be good. He used to have a theory about good
and bad art. He used to think that if he used to believe&;#8230;no.
No good. Can't remember. Sorry. Funny, that.