Great landscapes are as much about the personality of the land they represent as portraits of people. I thought, perhaps, if the land portrayed had a voice and could talk back to the artist, it might be an interesting dialogue, as in a play. Playwriting. I have not done it before and this is exactly what the Weekly Writing Challenge is about.
The Voice of the Town (The Voice)
The Artist stands in the centre of the stage with city views projected in random order on three screens shaped like a diamond around him. Each new photo lights up when the previous one goes dark. The views are accompanied by relevant sounds (church bells, traffic, people talking, etc.) The artist is dressed for a field trip with his gear hanging off his shoulder.
As the photo-show progresses, the voice of the town tells its story.
The Voice of the Town (The Voice): I am a hundred miles away from Moscow, to the South-East, and for hundreds of years I was at the frontier, fighting off Tatar nomads while Czars in Moscow were building the state that is now known as Russia. I am as old as Moscow, a bit over 850 years old, that is. In-between the wars, I was leading the quiet life of a provincial town. Well, there was that wife of the Prince who threw herself from a tower as she didn’t want to be captured by the Mongols, but I am not sure it wasn’t an accident. Oh, the first Russian battleship was built there. I’ve got no seas around here, but they somehow pulled it all the way to one of the big ponds using small and big rivers as roads. I have been crumbling, and I have been restored again. I am not exactly looking old as new, but some churches get a new paint job, the old Castle gets a facelift, and I still have a few tourists coming in each year.
Suddenly, when the image of an arched gallery appears, the Artist says “That’s’ the place!” and starts unpacking and unfolding his easel. The image stays on the screen.
He starts drawing and we see this pastel gradually emerging on the white screen behind and above him:
When the drawing is over, the artist’s mobile goes off, he puts it on loudspeaker, because his hands are still busy doing some final touches on the drawing.
The Voice: What is this? What season is this? What…
The Artist: Winter. You’re not a summer vacation spot. You’re more of a winter character. You had a difficult life in your 900 years as a small town and you weathered it out. Well done. I want to show that you are still alive and kicking. See these people at the back walking by the wall? I put them there to show that life goes on regardless of anything. There’s still some purpose behind your not being a forgotten ruin. I don’t want to offend you, but there’s a lot in you that looks like a ruin.
The Voice: Why is then the snow green? Is this an ecologic disaster? I don’t have any factories around here, just agriculture. Very primitive agriculture, I have to admit.
The Artist: I could say I see you this way, but no, it’s green because the sky is blue.
The Voice: You’re are barmy. And not because you talk to a town’s spirit.
The Artist: ha-ha-ha. The street lights paint the snow yellow. The deep blue skies reflect in the yellow snow and – bang! – it becomes green. You are a small town that has always been one with nature. That’s the way to show it. And the red of the wall separates the blue and green right in the middle, like blood running through a body! Plus, it’s the basics of the colour wheel. That’s to show your vitality, my provincial friend.
The Voice: I’d say looking at the colour wheel I need some orange.
The Artist: Oh, no, you don’t have enough energy in you, not enough optimism. No, you’re not getting any orange. I’ve even made the red cold, because the brick wall is as frozen as those people who trudge below.
The Voice: You might be right on this. But why is everything so… curved? When I see myself in the mirror I see mostly straight lines, not the oceanic waves you painted.
The Artist: Have you seen airplanes flying above you?
The Voice: that’s the only entertainment I get during cold nights when all the yobs are scared off by the frost! But how are planes relevant?
The Artist: Airplanes fly along beelines from point A to point B, but when you project those routes on a flat page of an inflight magazine, these routes turn into curves. I take your straight lines and linear perspective and project them onto your curved history.
When I was drawing the red-brick wall I thought it had seen Russians, Mongols, and Poles scaling it, fighting each other to hold on to it, dying on I, and on both sides of it. And often it was Russians against Russians. This is no straight wall at all. It is like portraying a soldier with deep scars on his body from past fights. I’d have to show the scars even if they are covered by his clothes.
The Voice: My scars have been healed, repainted and rebuilt. I’ve not seen a war in the last 70 years! You can see scars on the body of a soldier, but you can’t see them on me.
The Artist: But I can. I can even if I don’t want it. Shall we paint more of you, if you are not scared to be seen as what you really are?
IMPORTANT: Did you like the play dialogue? Do you want to see more of the town and how the Artist thought it really looked like? Let me know what you think of this form: landscape talking back to the artist. I need to know whether it is a form interesting to develop. If you want to know more about this particular artist, click on the tag “Sevostianov” at the bottom, it will get you to the right posts.
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