Wednesday, 14 October 2009

New Interviews With Old Masters

Paul Gauguin, former bank clerk, of Paris.

"The bank thing really stifled my creative impulses", says Paul, "but I had to persevere because my wife very inconsiderately produced five children and the whole lot of them needed their three squares a day."

When the bank decided to close half of its branches and retrench staff, it came as a relief to Paul, who could now with a clear conscience go on the dole and devote all his time to painting.

"At last I could stop shaving and wearing a tie, but I could not concentrate on my art while the house was full of nagging women and screaming kids, so I decided to go to Tahiti," says Paul.

 "I missed my family, but luckily I met some very kind and sympathetic people who gave me a lot of emotional support and allowed me to paint them topless."

Paul's new friends were a bit short on intellectual conversation, however, and he felt the need to exchange ideas with fellow-artists, so he went to Arles to join his friend Vincent at the aptly named "Studio of the South".

"We saw ourselves as two lost souls on the highway of life," says Paul with a whimsical smile, "we inspired each other.

Vincent painted sunflowers and I painted Vincent painting sunflowers."

Sadly, the idyll was not to last. Running out of sunflowers when the summer drew to an end, Vincent began to suffer sunflower withdrawal symptoms. Paul humoured his friend by helping him to search fruitlessly in the snow for sunflowers.

At first Vincent was able to keep the craving at bay by painting dead sunflowers, but inevitably tragedy struck.

Towards Christmas, Vincent's mind snapped: he tried in vain to get Paul to go out and hunt for sunflowers in the snow again, and eventually threw a glass of absinthe at him.

"Luckily most of it landed on my arm, so I could lick a fair bit off and it wasn't all wasted. But my shirt will never be the same: Brown Gouge could do nothing with those green stains. I am quite partial to green and often paint green women, so I was prepared to overlook this outburst. It would have been a different matter had he flung a Kirschberg Cherry Schnapps all over me, mind you!"

The next day, Vincent accosted Paul in the street, waving a straight razor and yelling: "I'm going to cut your ear off, you blasted Frog!". He shouted this in Dutch, but Paul got the gist and came out of the blocks like Cathy Freeman on a good day.

Vincent was unable to catch the more agile Frenchman, who was very fit from chasing frolicsome green ladies up and down the beach in Tahiti. Unable to get at Paul, in his fury and frustration Vincent hacked his own ear off and threw it at Paul, once again hitting him on the arm, where it stuck gorily to his sleeve, spoiling yet another good shirt.

"This time I didn't bother with Brown Gouge, I soaked the shirt in cold water Omo and the blood came right out. But I was finished with Vincent: no more Mr Nice Guy, he could jolly well go out and hunt for his own sunflowers from now on. I thought I would go and check Melbourne out, having heard a lot about the Heidelberg School, The W.A.S. and Kylie Minogue."

Sadly, after only a short stay, Paul has become disenchanted with Melbourne: "The women are not green enough", he says sneeringly, "and in any case they are strangely reluctant to let me paint them topless. Only this morning, when I showed the check-out chick at Coles my mahl stick and asked her politely to remove her shirt, she called Security. I was lucky to get away with only the few bruises ... these Australians are philistines!"

Paul is off to settle in the Marquesas Islands, where he hopes the inhabitants will be more simpatico with his artistic ideals. He has also heard a rumour that Miss Minogue likes to go there on her hols.

We will miss him at our little soirèès, but we wish him well in his future career. Bon Voyage, Paul, and may your palette never dry out!

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