A beach, late afternoon. The sun, low and watery, illuminates the end of the day’s play: children and dogs grab their last chances to frolic as parents begin packing up the deckchairs. The Union Jack windbreaker and the fat man’s vest are from the ’70s. One senses autumn.
In the far bottom-left of the canvas, unnoticed at first glance, half of a boy’s freckled face can be seen. The one visible eye is a faint blue, the gaze quizzical.
I have been standing before this painting for some time before Jolly Roger (Roger de Beaufort: gallery owner, bon viveur, humbug of the first order) glides into proximity. “One of your first with us, wasn’t it, this one? Fabulous. Paid for my extension…” Fatuous and overstuffed as ever; God how I loathe art people. I squint hard at the boy.
It is some time later and I reach home, the memory of the gallery ebbing as the flat greets me. The same white wooden front door, the same scarlet shag and the same chair before the same TV into which I sink gratefully, Macallan in hand.
The snooker’s on; I try to concentrate on the game but it’s no good. The players’ faces, hunched over the baize, won’t stay as they are but morph before my eyes, freckles rising, losing weight, losing years. Then they are staring not at the ball but at me. I stare at my drink.
I come to in my chair, remembering nothing. I see on the hairs on my wrist before I feel it, that the temperature has dropped.
I glance between the two doorways but no-one appears. The night is quiet. Then a bus passes, louder than normal. I get up to investigate, stooping to retrieve the bottle as a make-do weapon.
There is a window in the kitchen next to the living room, but it faces onto the next-door apartment block and there is no sign of force having been used. Passing through the room as stealthily as a 64-year-old frame will permit, I come to the studio.
This is the one room that I keep spotless, where nothing extraneous is allowed and all is clean and complete. Where the canvas is king and the creation undefiled. Or not: the work I have here has been roughly handled, the boy’s corner of the crowd scene — wintry, stuffed with men and boys and the white-breathed celebration of a sporting event — now torn out with obvious force. The rest looks suddenly haggard, the absence marked by a fluttering remainder. Hairs and hackles rise.
It is one of a series, started in the 1970s, that for various reasons I have had a need to do. Of my paintings they have not made me the most money nor garnered me the most fame, but they are probably those of which I am proudest. They are also what I see when I wake and that I kill with the whisky at night.
But of course, you know this. You are after all their inspiration, their subject, their object. And a thousand of them will not bring you back to me.
The window has been partly shattered and slivered by the impact of some projectile. I rush to it but outside the street is empty and silent, nothing moving within the marmalade glow of the street lamps.
Adam Pearson has wanted to do this for a long time. He lives in Tokyo.