In the Darkness I did not see…… The radiant white of the marble seemed to give off a shine that surpassed the brightness of the globe under which it was. Running his fingers along it, Henry felt its soft smoothness, which enticed him to stroke it again and again. Any interruption of the silk smoothness made him quiver, and he immediately rectified it by chipping away at it with careful precision. “Make your life a masterpiece; imagine no limitations on what you can be.” That was the balderdash Henry’s philosophy teacher had tried to tell him whilst Henry was spending countless hours in the gallery working on his masterpieces. Henry knew he was better. Always had been, and always would be.
The only difference was now Henry, instead of wasting his talent at the local art gallery, was finally ready for the world to bask in his glory. After so much time, so much lost sleep and so much effort, Henry would receive the recognition he knew he deserved.After all this, he had come to realise what an artist’s poison was: his own work. He could never be satisfied with what he had made before him, and the longer he stared at it the more imperfect it became. Yet, it was beautiful, he thought. He truly thought that it would have been an emblem of human creativity. In contention with the works of the classical geniuses – let they be Michelangelo, Rodin or Donatello. He gazed at the figure that stood before him, as if it was his lover that looked away demurely from his intense infatuation.
He stroked its mouth and then its arm, making sure that its contours were perfect and proportional. Henry stood back, and dropped his tools. That was enough. It was perfect. Of course it was perfect.
After all, when did Henry ever produce anything that wasn’t a masterpiece?The room that he stood in was covered in a thick carpet of white dust, which sprung up and settled again as Henry walked around. The figure in the middle seemed as if it was a void that drew all attention to it, sucking all the colour and brightness of the room into it. Henry stared at it intently, and he felt as if it was alive in brightness, perhaps breathing slightly in its perpetual gesture. At the foot of this immense figure were myriads of tools left around everywhere, as if they were thrown around in a frenetic way. Henry remembered when the room was all but a single neat block of marble, with brown timber beneath it with everything neatly packed away.But now, it was all different.
The way in which the tools sprawled around on the floor and the sheets of white covered the timber like snow had an energy to it. It had been a year, and he felt that all the energy he had put into it had been transformed into its brilliant radiance. Henry remembered the first time he had produced something so beautiful, something that had almost, for a split second, caused him to appreciate the talent that came so naturally to him. However, when Henry turned back to face the world, all he could see was the mediocrity of those around him. And just like, Henry started setting himself up for the biggest fall of his life.Glancing up, Henry could hear the unpleasant screech of his art philosophy professor’s chalk against the dilapidated chalkboard that seemed so out of place in the so-called ‘state-of- the-art’ art school. “Omnis lapis est obstructionum de statuam eam in medio” he wrote in puckering humbleness.
“Every block of rock has a statue inside it. It is the sculptor duty to discover it,” he emotively uttered; dogmatically quoting Michelangelo, “See the angel in the marble and carve until you set her free.” But all the religiously forceful rambling of his teacher appeared a disguised truth to Henry.
Afterall, Henry’s philosophy of art stood superior above any other; what he believed was indeed the truth for him. Bored of the trivial lecture, he peeped at the clock.The clock had now struck twelve as Henry gazed out at the darkness of the night. He had finished cleaning the room, and everything seemed perfect. His creation, his own pinnacle of his own creativity, stood there in the most perfect of environments. The white light of the globe above it seemed to give it even more energy as it stood out, covered with its own shadows of its dramatic motion. Behind it were the swan and the eagle, both seeming as if their elegance and energy had been drained into this one.
The gold of the plaque behind them seemed to lose its colour, and the words that spelt out “winner” began to fade. Henry didn’t have a single drop of doubt in his mind. He was sure that his figure would soon have a plaque at its feet too, at which looking down it would smile. People had been flooding into the room since the morning, all pointing wondrously at his creation. They stood and absorbed its radiance, elegance and drama like a sponge, before nodding impressed and moving on. His room buzzed quietly as people muttered indistinctly.
Yet, in the room adjacent, the air was dead silent. Curious, Henry walked into the other room and found the crowd of people staring in awe at another sculpture. Her body was shrouded by her clothes fluttering in the wind, yet her face and her body were frozen in time, resonating with power and drama that seemed to emit constantly from it. He too began to gaze at it in awe.
It was perfect. It was everything that he wanted his sculpture to be. And it soon became everything else as a roar of applause was followed by the myriads of flashes in that room. It was at her feet that a golden plaque shone radiantly.
Henry looked back at his figure. It seemed to dwindle with its grandeur and its resonance. Its bright white began to dull into a sterile grey, reinforced by the silver plaque that had been just put on which read “Highly Commended”.
The gold that had once radiated from the swan and the eagle too diminished, and he saw that despite the large number of people in his room gazing wondrously at them, they no longer existed for him. They were nothing. They were just blocks of lifeless rock. He turned back and returned to his intense gaze, frustrated. Meanwhile, his figure no longer looked at its plaque in modest satisfaction, but turned away with shame and regret. Henry had always thought that when his professor urged them to not let limitations restrict that they could be, it was a reference to their own ability.
Now, as Henry gazed up into the unforgiving eyes of what was meant to captivate the world, he shuddered at the realisation of what he had missed. Henry hadn’t even bothered to explain his work; that was how arrogant he was that people would love it. And just like that, Henry took himself back to the quiet boy who listened with zeal at the back of the art gallery. The boy who held no assumptions about the world, and looked at everything with an element of appreciation and humility.That was who Henry wanted to be.