Figure XI

July 4, 2006

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Up in her room she unseals it, her pulse quivering beneath her flesh. She has known that this letter would arrive, and now here it is. Beyond the unfolding of the thick A4 sheet, the unfurling of this expensive paper flower, there is only to be found quite how bad the contents are to be. She unfolds it, and there it all is:

Dear Ms. Eubank,

Following a meeting of our board of directors, it has been decided that our proposed exhibition of your work is now somewhat inappropriate. This decision was reached in light of your recent comments about The Small Gallery in the press.

Yours truly,

Henry Sitwell.

It had been such a silly thing, she thinks as she falls into the armchair upsetting two unfinished canvases onto the floor. As if in slow motion it had happened; one minute talking to friends at the private view of her friend Paul’s work, and then out of nowhere there had been this man standing at her shoulder. He was handsome, charming. She asked him what he did, but he had been somewhat vague mentioning something about the city she had thought.

He brought her a fresh glass of wine. They wandered free of the pack, discussing the exhibition. Basically it had comprised of two people’s work; Paul’s large abstract canvases of muted tonal patterns, and another man who she did not know well, who had painted these absurd figurative pieces. Strange interior scenes. Not much skill to them she had thought. The exhibition had been titled inTANDEM; a meaningless name for a meaningless exhibition. “What,” she had asked this man “are these two artists supposed to have in common? I mean, its called in tandem, but you can see who is doing all the peddling.”

The man had laughed. Anita had felt warm inside. The wine had made her witty she decided, and so she began upon a critique of the gallery’s general policy of choosing art. He laughed in all the right places; it made her feel bolder. All the time in the back of her mind she kept thinking; these people have said they will put on a show of my work… my work… no one has ever offered to do that before.

It was true. Though she knew that Paul had put in several good words for her at the gallery, and no doubt they owed him several favours during the course of staging this exhibition; nobody until then had agreed to host an exhibition of Anita Eubank’s paintings. Even though it was this funny little gallery that she didn’t much like, they were going to do this for her.

A lot of what she said to the man, he probably took out of context, but Anita could not remember much about that night the next day. It took over a month for the piece to appear in the magazine, but even after that time had passed she still recognised her words blown up as banners in the four page article: The Parochial View Of The Small Gallery. He had mentioned her by name. Why had he done that? It wasn’t as if her name carried any weight. It wasn’t even as if anyone of any importance read the magazine it was printed in. None of it mattered. But it was enough. It was more than enough.

She crumbles the letter into her fist. Paul was no longer speaking to her of course. Suddenly everyone knew who she was but for all the wrong reasons. The gallery had phoned her. It was the first she had known of the article’s existence. “We’ll be in touch by post,” was all they had said, and now here they were.

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