the last canvas
Published Jul 13, 2013

Written By



Page 1 / 54

this is my first story, and your comments are more than welcome.

i'm not a native speaker in English, so I guess you'll have to cope with my limited choice of words and very simple narration.

I think one of the main features of these screenshots are in the scenery -- and before questions come, I tell the first chapters take place in Vice City by Fresh Prince, with some modifications by me --, and I'd like to thank all TSR artits for the many wonderful CC shown in these screenshots.

this is a story about two generations of artists and loners.

thank you for reading. I hope you'll enjoy it.

this is my first story, and your comments are more than welcome.

i'm not a native speaker in English, so I guess you'll have to cope with my limited choice of words and very simple narration.

I think one of the main features of these screenshots are in the scenery -- and before questions come, I tell the first chapters take place in Vice City by Fresh Prince, with some modifications by me --, and I'd like to thank all TSR artits for the many wonderful CC shown in these screenshots.

this is a story about two generations of artists and loners.

thank you for reading. I hope you'll enjoy it.
You won't see me with a cocktail in my hands very often.

In fact, I usually say I don't drink alcohol.

But today.
Today I have many reasons to drink.

Not just because the barman is extremely handsome.

And not only because my mother suggested it, a few minutes ago.
As the phone rang, I knew it was her. Third time today.

-- Bonjour Catherine.

-- Bonjour mon trésor. How is everything going?

-- I'm still waiting for him, if that's your question.
-- He hasn't arrived yet!?! Oh honey, I don't know if this was such a good idea after all. You might get hurt again... Oh, why does that man always have to be late?
-- Since he is already 20 years late, I don't mind waiting for a few extra minutes or a couple more hours -- I let out a deep breath, letting go of my anger -- You'd love the restaurant, Catherine. So fancy! It's on the top floor of the highest building in town, the views over the ocean are breathtaking... Anyways, I have arrived early, because I want to settle down, relax and calm my feelings. -- Drop that meditative crap, darling. You sound awfully like him... Have a drink instead... Like me! -- she suggested.

-- Only if you promise me you won't drink tonight, Catherine!

-- But I'm going out tonight! How can I not drink? And you know I know how to drink.

-- It's more like you know how to get drunk, mom.

-- That's so rude of you, Laurent!

-- I'm sorry. I'm nervous. Enjoy your date! Bye.
So -- my name is Laurent D'Allegro.
Born of an Italian father and a French mother.

I had this funny idea that I would die at the age of 33.
Like Jesus Christ. I was so sure!

Since I haven't died -- not yet -- I've decided to heal old wounds before heading into the uncertain future. The rest of my life, the bonus part, is starting today.
The barman who looks like an angel is named after an archangel.

-- Can I please have another gin tonic, Gabriel? And I'll be moving to the lounge area. When my guest arrives...

-- I'll show him the way, sir, don't worry. If I can do anything else for you...

Obviously, he is in this town because he wants to be an actor. And when that happens, I have to think, he'll want to be a dj.

I cannot help him either way.
So here I am, waiting for my past to arrive.

Does my whole future really depends on that? So it seems, if I want to live a happy, peaceful life.

He is so late -- but I don't care.
I can wait.
And listening to jazz helps. Speranza Spalding singing "Wild is the Wind" soothes me.
My first solo exhibition at Vice's Modern Art Museum is opening tomorrow night.

It's a major occasion and a great privilege to have this opportunity, and I'm hoping to be a new man by then.

Overnight. Starting this afternoon.
And suddenly -- my heart rose and sank -- there he was!

My father.
-- Ciao Carlo, buon giorno -- in a moment, I had decided formality would be my shield -- Io sono Laurent.

-- Of course you are! And you still speak Italian!

-- Just a few words I recall from my childhood... -- I was uncertain how to proceed -- Would you have recognized me, Carlo? -- to my dismay, my voice trembled each time I pronounced his name.

-- After me, you're the best looking man in this restaurant. You had to be my son! -- Carlo was in a cheerful mood, seeming unaware of my nervousness.
-- The restaurant is empty, Carlo -- it came out abruptly.

-- It was a joke... Won't you laugh? -- Carlo seemed to focus his eyes for the first time on me -- Apart from that, you're on the local newspapers, son. Big pictures. They seem to love your face more than your paintings.
-- Is that a criticism to my works, Carlo? -- my voice again trembled, this time with anger -- Or is it another bad joke?

-- It's a compliment, son. I see you're just like your mother... beautiful and elegant, but too serious. No sense of humour at all! Or are you trying to start an argument? Because if you invited me for that, I might as well leave now.
-- I'm sorry. I apologize -- I took another deep breath, but my fast beating heart did not support my trrying to calm down -- I'm glad you've arrived, Carlo.

-- And I apologize for being late. I'm happy to be here, Laurent.
You're twenty years late, I thought, and I'm certainly not letting you leave, not again, not tonight -- but I didn't say it.
We sat rigidly, and staring at one another, sank into an akward silence.

Words don't come easily after a 20 years gap.

Looking through the windows did not help us either -- out there, it was the overwhelming emptiness of ocean and sky that could not be abridged.
-- Can I offer you anything to drink, sir? -- the handsome barman, beautiful like an angel, behaving like an angel, broke the silence.

-- I'm having red wine, grazie -- Carlo replied.

-- Can I bring you another gin tonic, sir? -- he smiled, and his beauty had a calming effect on me.

-- No thank you, Gabriel. I'll have sparkling water instead -- it sounded so gay that I could not help but blush as Gabriel's smile broadened.
-- So you drink gin tonic... like your mother... -- he sounded disappointed, or perhaps surprised... -- It's a writer's drink, they say.

-- And what would be a painter's drink, Carlo?

-- I guess it depends on the painter, haha! This is a very nice place, son. The views are stunning. It must be expensive.

-- You're my guest, Carlo. A couple of my paintings have just been bought. Let's celebrate!
-- I'm happy to hear you're having such a brilliant start! The art critics were praising your paintings... "A refreshing punch in the face of the portraiting tradition"... Seems like you've knocked down all those guys that are staring at us from the wall, haha! I'm curious to see your paintings!

He seemed to be sincere. I had an invitation to tomorrow's vernissage in my pocket, and I had not yet decided whether to handle it to him. Or not.
-- And I've enjoyed the title of your exhibition so much: "Portraiting Dorian G". So witty, and very literary! It's only male models, I read. One of the articles mentioned they are all your ex-lovers... What makes me wonder... How many portraits are there in this show, son? -- Carlos giggled.
-- Haha! You're funny Carlo, just like I remember you. So says the legend... that I only portrait my ex-lovers... -- it came as a surprise that I could be so open about my sexuality with my father --I don't know who has started this rumour, probably my marchand, who believes in selling me ahead of my paintings. I have nothing to say about that -- we hadn't spoken for more than 15 minutes, and the subject had come up on his initiative -- Except that there are 45 paintings in this show... -- Haha! So you do have a sense of humour after all... -- he looked genuinely amused -- And you already have a marchand... Impressive! It makes me think... how different from my own start! I could never have afforded dining in such a posh restaurant when I was your age...
-- It's like I said... -- I saw myself gesticulating more than usual, already mirroring the Italian man in front of me, and I smiled... If Catherine could see this... She hated when I gesticulated too much, and she had strained me not to... 15 minutes was all it took to give in to my Italian blood -- don't worry Carlo, you're my guest... and my father, too, so that's why I've chosen the best restaurant in town! Don't think I'm trying to show off nor impress you!
-- I'm not saying that at all! But I'm nevertheless impressed, even if just with that shiny suit of yours. Haha! -- he paused -- And I'm happy to hear you calling me your father... -- again, he paused -- It's just that this place, so elegant... so 'chic' as your mother would say... couldn't be any more diverse from my own situation when I started my career, struggling to make it as a painter...
Carlo paused for a minute, reflecting. His eyes were vague for a whole minute or so, until he again focused them on me.

-- How much time do we have, Laurent?

-- I'm all yours tonight, Carlo. I'm here for you .

-- Ok then. It's time you learn more about your father. Maybe it will help you to understand and forgive me. At least, you'll have that opportunity.
At your age -- but I don't think I know my son's age, Carlo thought -- or perhaps younger, I used to be a penniless painter.

And homeless too, since I had to leave the room I had at the École des Beaux-Arts after I graduated.
My ex-roommate, who had left on a one year trip around the globe, being wealthy, paid my rent for another couple of months -- "to give me time to figure out what I wanted to do", he said.

I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to paint. But I guess he refered about getting a job.

I decided to spend all my money on a new easel, plenty of canvases and painting supplies, and so I could not afford paying the rent after that courteous period ended.

But sleeping rough did not concern me. What I wanted most was to have a small studio, an atelier for myself.
I found shelter in an abandoned factory, very conveniently located in a decaying food packing district.

I wasn't exactly hungered, but my diet consisted mostly of the leftovers from the neighboring factories -- lots of canned soup and stale bread, haha!
-- You're telling me... you were that poor? That you didn't have enough food? -- I was astonished. There had never been one single word about this period of my father's life. Had Catherine known about any of this, I wondered... Knowing her, she could have hidden it because she might have been ashamed of her husband's poorness. I wanted to ask, but had no chance -- Carlo was no longer before me, but living in his past.
I would say I had just enough food to survive... I was eating only once a day, or every other day, depending on what I found to eat...

But don't get me wrong! I couldn't be any happier!

I was free!

I had no teacher, no boss, no one to follow nor obbey! No marching orders! And I was allowed to paint all day and night long, day after day...
My squeaking bed was just beside the easel, and I would alternate periods of resting, usually during the day, with longer periods of painting.
I loved the night time for painting, because the district was calmer then -- the whole world seemed at peace, with people devoted to their sleep and dreams.

And there was very little light in the factory, so that my paintings gained in contrast, in vibrancy and intensity of lines and textures.
They were never gloomier.

I was depiciting cracked walls, burnt tires, broken windows, all the beautiful decadence of weathering and damage I found around me.

And I was never again as satisfied with my paintings.

I guess you could very appropriately call them 'still life'. My own life was still like a calm lake, and I was painting the images I saw reflected on its surface.
I never left the factory, the first couple of months, and never met another person.

What a privilege to be completely silent! Have you ever experienced that, Laurent? No small talk, no deep conversations, nothing! The sound of my breath and my heartbeat, these only were keeping me company.

That patio was my whole world, where I spent a
few hours oudoors everyday, reading, sunbathing, doing pushups.
And meditating.

My ex-roommate from the École had visited India on one of his holidays and brought with him some techniques I was so lucky to learn.

I would daily pray for the happiness of all beings, and I felt at peace.
-- I had no idea, Carlo! I've never heard none of this before, nor saw it published anywhere. How come? It would only fill the gaps in your catalogues biographies, that I confess I've been reading to get to know you, and add up so much to your reputation of being a reclusive master! I think you know you are often compared to Balthus...
-- Balthus once declared painting was a form of prayer. I wish I had said that first. Or maybe I have, but no one heard it... But I guess that's the only thing we have in common! As for being a master, that only means I'm getting old and soon I'll have to teach the young, if there are any volunteers, and that my identity is frozen, because art critics have come to respect or fear me! I feel like a mummy when they call me 'master'!
-- I was thinking more on your reclusion than your 'mastery', Carlo. I'm sorry if I mentioned Balthus. But like him, you can now have a painting bought for a million. And you are often compared to Morandi, too. How about that?
-- That's the greatest compliment ever made to me. Being compared to Morandi, ha! Might be because we are both Italian? Apart from that, I hate comparisons! And I'm happy to hear you've taken interest in my career, Laurent. As for the million dollar painting, that has happened just once yet, and believe me, I didn't get all that money.
-- I hate comparisons too, Carlo. I know how that feels. But in my case it's not Balthus nor Morandi. I'm often being compared to you! I'm always the son of the great painter. It sucks! And the day I publish my first book I know I'll be compared to Catherine, and turned into the son of the best-selling author.

But let's return to your story, Carlo... I'm fascinated!
-- If it feels so bad, you're still young enough to try to become a chef or a surgeon. How about those, Laurent? Nothing has been imposed on you, I think. You've always been the handsome prince roaming freely through life... Arrogant and spoiled... I hope you are not!

As for my story... fascinated, are you son? How fascinating is a clogged toilet? Or having to dig through trash for food? I'm pretty sure you've never had those experiences...
I did not have food to eat more than once daily, but instead I had to unclog the toilet every time I used it -- again, not so often, because I did not eat much, haha! -- and nevertheless I was happy, so happy to be free, to be on my own, to be left alone!

You have no idea how my solitude was -- and still is -- so very important to me, Laurent!
I knew I could not live like that for the rest of my life, but I was just trying to live day by day and not worry about the rest of my life. Nor the rest of the year, even.

Hunger? As I was becoming thiner and thiner, my private joke was that in the end I could always make money posing for Giacometti. But there was no one but me to laugh at my jokes.
And so I painted, day and night, night and day, as if my life depended on that, and not on food.

Actually, painting was more nourishing to me than the canned soup and the stale bread.
Painting was like a prayer, it was similar to my meditation, where I was praying for the well being of all forms of life.

That was so beautifully nourishing too, I felt thoroughly at peace and fulfilled, even when my pockets and my stomach were empty.
Sleeping seemed to me like a waste of time, a waste of the precious and fragile freedom I had just acquired.

And in time it became a problem too, as Summer gave way to Autumn.
A cold and rainy season started, and I could not go outdoors daily anymore.

And of course it rained inside the factory, rain leaking from the ceiling, mold growing on the walls, and the wind filled the room through the broken windows.

I could be hungry, but on top of that being cold was starting to weaken me.
Food poisoning became constant, and I realized I was getting seriously sick. I had eaten too often from rusted cans. Not to mention the moldy bread that had been my sole starter for so many months.

Not just thining, I had to face I was debilitated.

The romantic days of breathing and eating Painting were over. I just didn't want to give them up!
In my meditation sessions, that I now had to do indoors, I started praying not only for the happiness of all beings, but for a miracle that would change my situation.

Even if I calmed my mind and heart, my head was constantly aching, and so were my lungs.

I started seeing bellow the calm waters of my still life, seeing that it hadn't remained still at all. The muck had surfaced.
You can't imagine the things I did to remain free. To stick to my idea of freedom. Because I didn't want to work in someone's atelier as a helper, and I did not consider looking for a job in a factory nor in a shop.

I didn't know it then, but I was enslaved by my freedom. Trying to attain a way of living that had never been sustainable.
I secretly indulged in fantasies where marchands would get lost in town and bump into the factory and discover my work...

I wish they'd visit the atelier. You know, over time that abandoned factory became my atelier... But how could they? Nobody knew where I was. I hadn't seen another person in months.

With winter approaching, it was more than time to face the world outside. And get a life and my health back.
this first chapter might have been too long, I apologize for that...

how Carlo ends up swimming in the Indian Ocean?

I hope to cover that in the next chapter :)

thanks for reading.

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#1fruitopiaVIPJul 6, 2013

Loved the screen shots. Good story.

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