If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then Syed Amaan Ahmad’s ‘The Lunatic Painter’, published on TheUnknownPen.com under his bi-monthly ‘Intangible Stories’, says thousands of words. Syed’s imagination is revealed in colors and images. Even though Syed has publicly stated that he is an atheist, I must say that I see in this short article images that remind me of the Apocalypse. This is probably my bias, but it is worth mentioning. The moon turns red. The colors of the story flow together from episode to episode, so the reader can experience the story as if in a dream. In the book of Revelation, stars fall from the sky, the elements dissipate, and a woman seeks refuge from evil. In ‘The Lunatic Painter’, one world is transformed by rich brush strokes into the next in a swirl of eye-catching images.
In tone ‘The Lunatic Painter’ sounds Shakespearean. The appearance of a puck-like figure is refreshing. A painter appreciates her colorful image from the outside, but is then brought into her artistic vision of the world. While you are within your own image, you really experience your own art. The experience is magical, but in some places the enchantment suddenly collides with harsh reality. It is as if one had to pay for the rich and happy moments of enlightenment by submitting to intermittent gouges of reality. I think the word for this experience is ‘bittersweet’. It is a watercolor dream as the colors in the palette are constantly blended. But the colors of ‘Lunatic Painter’ do not swarm inwards on the canvas; they twist and turn in a spiral towards or attract the artist’s world.
In this story, the artist is granted the wish of many of her kind. Experience his art fully. But for this privilege he pays dearly by becoming the subject of another artist’s painting. Perhaps this is not too high a price, because she willingly accepts it. After all, she wasn’t satisfied with simply observing her own art; she wanted to become art.
The Naked Boy reminds me of Puck in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. This child plays the flute, perhaps tempting or inciting the artist to enter the painting. But the happiness that is promised in his aesthetic experience is soon shaken when the child’s happiness turns sour and angrily he throws stones at the moon. Therefore, the artist must pay the price of pain and pleasure to experience her own art.
As the artist awakens, she seems to come back to reality. Now only the eyes of the subject of your painting are displayed on the canvas; she is very excluded from her art right now. Try to remedy it by holding him in your arms as if he were your child. She cries with it in the real world, her world. Even this moment of sharing with his art is interrupted when the eyes disappear and a mouth appears in the painting with only the upper teeth intact.
Perhaps the mouth with half its teeth missing belongs to the old woman who now appears. This old woman is manic. It seems to be music personified. One breast hangs from his stomach as he furiously plays the piano. His hair flows with the wind of his music. Perhaps it is the sound of classical art, the explosive resonance of thousands of years of aesthetic influences. Manic music challenges our ears like a force that refuses to be tamed, even in its old age. His descendants, a world of artists, feed on his only breast. Something old becomes new. Naked came and naked went.
The artist wakes up again to find herself alone. The maniacal old woman, her muse, has suddenly left her. You may be reminded that the frenzied genius only visits for short periods of time. An artist must take advantage of that as well as the muse allows.
Blood flows from the artist’s eyes. This could be a warning to the weak. The artist must pay her dues with her own blood.
But the lady from ‘The Lunatic Painter’ pays with more than the blood of her life. As the story continues, she hears someone playing a violin behind her. This is a naked man. While playing, she sees many paintings around her; they look at her as she had once looked at them. These paintings have now become their peers. The naked violinist has taken over the whole story as he stands behind her and plays. He is appreciating it as his masterpiece.
When the lights are turned on, we see that this whole story has been acted out on the stage of a picture in an art gallery. We have witnessed his painting, a beautiful work of art, so magnificent that it has captivated everyone’s attention from beginning to end. This artist, a man named Aldorino, has won an award for his painting of a female artist, a naked child playing the flute, and an old woman with one breast furiously playing a piano. The painting is titled “The Mad Artist.”