Frugality and impulse. Two of my abstract goals for 2012. As soon as I surfaced from the holidays that make most of January disappear, I went out one night in pursuit of another abstract goal – daring. It wasn’t very daring. Just an exhibition opening at the Gallery Bodalla. But I hate openings, because you have to hover amidst a pile of strangers and either feel self-conscious in your silence or inane in your utterance. The paintings are low on the list of everyone’s priorities.
However, I thought I’d give openings another go, tempted partly by the promise of Latin American guitar music. I arrived late and found that I could in fact prowl the paintings uninterrupted, provided I executed small dance steps to keep out of other people’s sight line and keep them out of mine. I found I was enjoying the atmosphere, and snickering privately at inane attempts to talk to the artist: “I really love your art” is a line I won’t emulate. I enjoyed watching Valerie thumb red dots on the wall with surprising frequency, and a thread of a thought took up residence in my brain: “Mmm. I’d like to cause a red dot.”
And then I saw the painting. It was called Arribo (Up). The head and shoulders of a figure in profile (yes. I’m sure that’s what it is) emerged from wonderful delicate black and white hashwork. It drew me back and back and back. The price helped it to settle more solidly in my brain. It was within my reach.
However, I’ve read Peter Singer on the ethics of consumption: I’ve listened to a friend who decided to buy nothing new this year. For goodness sake, I’ve decided myself to be frugal! And how much of this urge to buy is the hysteria of the event and the moment?
So I don’t buy.
But I’m back in the gallery at the weekend for another look and Arribo still pulls me. Still I don’t dare, hoping in my cowardly way that it will be sold to someone else and I’ll be relieved of the responsibility of deciding.
No-one else buys it. Eight days after I see it, I pull out the mastercard and dress up in gear suitable for an art-buyer. I say “I’ll have that one” and watch the red dot leave Valerie’s finger and attach itself to the wall near my purchase.
But I feel none of the elation I expected. I feel flat. I look at another piece (Spirits at Bristol Point) and wish I’d bought it, with its crowd of bare bottoms and breasts, in a grey wash with a greeny-mauvy tinge and a splash of orange. There’s even a shape that could be a dog in the corner. I contemplate changing my mind, but I can’t bring myself to look completely indecisive. As I step out the door, the second impulse strikes. I’ll buy it too!
And suddenly I feel jubilant.