I recently had an interesting conversation with author Mary Martin. She is about to release the second book in her Trilogy of Remembrance series The Fate Of Pryde.

Her protagonists Rinaldo and Alexander are artists, both well known in the fictional world that Mary Martin has created, but artists with very different views on art. Alexander is a lover of the classic works, Rinaldo on the other hand is the king of the ‘here and now’, art should be shocking, art should be a wake up call to all those that see it.

I vacillate on the subject. I see pros and cons to both sides of the argument. But I am long enough in the tooth to realize that art is a very personal choice, what I may like is not indicative of what someone else may like.

It was with this in mind that a planted a seed with Mary Martin. Could you imagine the conversation between Alexander and Rinaldo as they talked about well know artists, old and new?

Mary Martin gave this idea some thought. I am by no means an art expert. I belong in that category of “I Know what I like”, but I also know enough to understand that ‘every picture tells a story’.

Yesterday, this delightful piece arrived in my email. A conversation between Alexander and Rinaldo on the artist Chardin. Enjoy:

Waiting patiently for Rinaldo, Alexander eyed the pastries glistening in the display case in the café. He thought of the artist Chardin, who painted loaves, fruit and game in the seventeenth century. Was Chardin’s bread tastier or his fruit sweeter than what lay before him now? Chardin’s pastries, he decided, looked more beautiful because they were filtered through that artist’s insight and sensibilities. Chardin had contributed himself to the work—his world through his eyes, spirit, heart and mind.

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Alex’s mood was broken when Rinaldo marched in. Everyone in the café looked up as if a thunderstorm had broken. Rinaldo slumped into the chair and nodded at the pastries.“Old art is like bread, it gets dry, and stale.”

Shocked by Rinaldo’s apparent mind-reading, Alex said, “No, Rinaldo, you’re wrong! An artist, whether he be from centuries back or not yet born, has his being and a vision to bring to the world—that which the world does not yet know is there to be seen.”

“Really, old man?” Ferret like, Rinaldo grinned and wrapped his long black coat around him.

“What can that possibly mean?”

“Take any artist you like. Marcel Duchamp the famous maker of readymades, will do.”

The waiter approached and they ordered coffee and cognac.

“Duchamp was a genius raising questions no one else has ever asked such as What is art?” replied Rinaldo.

“Give me an example,” said Alex.

“The Mona Lisa, of course.”

“Oh yes, very clever! Explain his thinking in painting a moustache on her.”

Slightly nervous, Rinaldo looked about as though he feared a set-up. “Duchamp wanted to prove that art could be created by taking what he called a readymade and changing it in some way—the moustache.” He gave an elaborate shrug. “He drew the moustache on an old postcard where the original was reproduced.”

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“What was his point?”

“That art can be found anywhere and everywhere. By altering it, even the most common object can become art.”

Alexander twirled the salt shaker on the table. “Is this lowly, everyday object art?”
Rinaldo’s eyes gleamed with feigned amusement. “Absolutely!”

Alex persisted. “But did the person, who made it think it was art?”

Under Alex’s quizzical eye, Rinaldo squirmed ever so slightly. “Of course not! That is where the artist comes in. Like Duchamp, he changes the found object.”

“So if I dent this aluminum cap and set the bottle and cap in a gallery does that make it art?”

Rinaldo, most annoying when under siege, shrugged and tossed up his hands. “Why not? Art is whatever the artist says it is.”

“Really?” Tipping back in his chair, Alex chuckled. “If anything can be art, then nothing is art.”

Rinaldo glowered at him and made ready to leave.

Alex reached out. “Please Rinaldo. Do sit down. We’re having a wonderful conversation about…”

Rinaldo slumped back in his seat.

Alexander knew to take care. Ever since he had won the Turner Prize for contemporary art with a landscape painting, Rinaldo had attacked him at every turn. Although he neither understood the  man nor their relationship, he knew he must seek common ground with someone so easily offended.

“Well, my friend,” Alex began again. “I agree that Duchamp raised novel questions. It seems you also agree with me—that Duchamp brought to the world that which it does not yet know is there to see. And so, he is a true artist—a visionary.”

Rinaldo smirked. “Well, old man, you’re showing promise. You’ve understood a famous artist working over a century ago.” Before leaving, he turned back and said. “And I suppose you were thinking of that old guy, Chardin, when I came in.”

Left alone, Alexander reflected: Chardin added much more than a dent in a salt shaker.

Mary Martin may be best well known for The Osgood Trilogy, but I suspect that the Trilogy Of Remembrance is going to make an even bigger splash.

Simon Barrett

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