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Saatvik’s Masterpiece

Each layer of Saatvik’s disintegrating canvas exposed an older trend. For a decade he had waited, letting it get ready, poster by poster, outside the city’s most reputable art gallery.

And now he greedily worked away; revealing hidden strokes, forgotten colours, disputed originals and debated interpretations. Long, knobbly, rubied fingers removed strips and patches with dexterous care, painting without paints, keeping a remnant of one show, removing a chunk of another.

He did not answer the curious public, not even those who seemed genuine lovers of art. ‘It may bias what is in my head, the struggle for explanation,’ he said through confident rips of paper.

That night, an opportunistic media-man posted a snapshot of the unfinished piece on the web. By morning, the art world had debated itself out on what it conveyed. And so the decade-long wait to create his masterpiece was wasted, when Saatvik hadn’t even unveiled half of what he thought his brilliant mind held. But minds change fast, in the post-modern world.

‘A snapshot of our city’s art history, through the last decade, layer by layer,’ he told the media-man and got away with it, having been famous for decades himself. No one accused him of pulling a Duchamp.

While the original was carefully removed from the wall and auctioned off for a grand sum, the excited curator documented the masterpiece on a beautiful print. Outside the now even more famous gallery, it stayed for a week before the artist for the next exhibit put up his shiny poster on top.

A decade later, Saatvik worked at another try, after being cited as an old fraud by some; by others, a much debated, misunderstood artist. Long, knobbly, dirt-lined fingers removed strips and patches with dexterous care, painting without paints, keeping a remnant of one show, removing a chunk of another. This time, he wouldn’t let it get clicked, nor would he expose the bottom-most layer of his new canvas.

©vaidehi patil

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