Truth is Beauty and Beauty, rude

You pronounce beauty like bow-tie, you speak bad English to get back at them, harrowed nuns who did you in at Catholic school, then that very religious girl who broke your heart on graduation, you said religion has no faults and you, you have religions too but you’d keep them secret, because convictions are continuous
and anything that you can think of is true, automatically true.
You do not talk about beauty of faces with me because you, no one knows what you look like, you say that I am beautiful but you also tell me that you call everyone beautiful, you are a mother to me. You say, are you truly beautiful if you scrape all that crap off of your face, i say let me be and you are angry because your son, your adopted son and his friend does not talk about beauty, they are brutalist and violence and short.

———

A gallery room. Detective music. No paintings but you are supposed to find the painting in the room. Nothing on the walls, the artist in the room. Find the painter.

The painter is not Cornish, but sounds it.

In 1981, he faked his own death, announcing his demise to the local newspapers. When he died in 2002, he left behind a particularly macabre legacy as an embalmed corpse of a tramp was found hidden behind some elaborate panelling at the bottom of a bookcase.

He spent a year living in a remote cottage near Lanreath in Cornwall, supporting his young family by teaching, before being offered studio space on the Barbican in Plymouth by local artist and businessman John Nash.

The artist’s home and studios once more became a magnet for vagrants and street alcoholics, who then sat for paintings. Their numbers swelled and he was forced to commandeer derelict warehouses in the city to house the ‘dossers’.


That is the artist. Look not, and look back at beauty, if you must.

The vagrants, ugly in life, were made beautiful by the paintings, because he “scraped that crap off their face”, wiped the glass box of three-dimensions until the dirt was starlit and the scars were filigreed and skin sagged like rare silk. The critics were perplexed, uncertain whether the artist was a liar or demented, perceptually disabled such that he saw scum as heavenly beauty.

The paintings were vivid, were popular, they walked off the walls and into salons which had previously only displayed depictions of famed courtesans and athletes, famous for their nubility. The town was corrupted, somehow, by this love-sight for the oppressed. The artist’s studio was empty, except for the occasional bum who entered to pose, perhaps carrying with him a cherished stray cat.

Modern analysts claim his purpose was to uplift, to inject humanity into the invisible impoverished masses, they call his style “angelic realism” – but these are easy things to say when his masterworks persist only as rumor, the paintings all hidden away in avaricious, private collections.