The Manchester Review
John Saul
print view

Name for an island

He took a long walk past the quayside, the stony beach, on, on until he came to the ancient rock, tall and handsome, ringed by ferns and grasses. It seemed to face the sea. This was the French nation’s most western land, called sometimes l’île sentinelle. He faced the way the rock faced; both stood sentinel over the Atlantic. He lay down and watched the big low clouds slide swiftly over. Much as he loved this island, the constant proximity to the ocean, the majesty of its clouds, he wanted to leave for Rennes, or even England. What should he therefore do about the dog? Would the tobacco counter at the Café de la Paix face ruin without his custom? But the winters on Ouessant were hard. There was twenty per cent less rainfall in Rennes in the winter. First he would carefully watch the ferries, he decided; then work out, as a challenge, how to board one without paying. Then he would leave.

Names of those painting for the public

Beneath the ancient rock where he had fallen asleep after making his decision Raeburn woke with a dream clear in his head. For the umpteenth time he was opening his chest of drawers, feeling towards the back with his hand. Careful not to tear its pinkened paper, he took out the lining of the drawer, this time to read the following, clearly dated the Sunday Times 29 December 1996.
It is no secret that the two Russian artists, Alexander Melamid and Vitaly Komar, have had professional surveys made to find out what the perfect painting looks like. They call it the Most Wanted Painting, the painting people would most like to have in their living rooms. It is a mainly blue landscape, preferably with a mountain, a lake and a few wild animals, and perhaps the odd historical figure wandering around.
      The results of their polls, now completed for a third of the globe, have shown only very minor variations of detail between countries. The Portuguese would like to have a small village on a far bank of the lake, Kenyans a hippo. Most nations are united in wanting to see two deer grazing. The Danes would also like to see their flag as well as a ballet dancer at the lakeside.
      Rejecting their first hundred attempts as inadequate, Alexander Melamid and Vitaly Komar have worked hard to produce the perfect painting in saleable numbers. People of scores of nationalities have been pleased to buy their work of the blue landscape with the lake and the mountain. The proceeds are not only providing the artists with a livelihood but also enabling them to invest in further national polls for the project.