Bruno Kriegel: a retrospective (Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, with kids on pig], c. 1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook)

By Duncan Felton

He would never admit it, but I knew. I knew, from that wretched light in his eyes, Lucien Espinosa would not cease his festering  subterfuge until I was utterly broken, debased, and destroyed, within and without. He began with the pig.

Well, everyone else just calls it ‘the pig’. Thanks to him, for decades now, nobody’s deemed it fitting to call my artwork by its title:  The Parasitic Suckling of the Living Upon The Great Sow of The Dying Earth. They never noticed, in that now befouled shopping complex, the pig’s scooped-out void-like eyes. They didn’t consider those entitled piglets scrabbling at that black underbelly for the last vestiges of fecundity. I’m certain they didn’t even see the plaque, which I’m convinced he removed before painting the statue’s portrait. That swine with the sickly little sproglets perpetually astride, riding that black sow for his pretty picture, then postcards, fridge magnets, calendars, everyone calling it Lucien’s pig, giving him grants and claps and that entire bloody shopping mall for him to practically ejaculate all over to a standing ovation.

Just thinking of that portrait, never mind every other indignity, it deepens my sickness, a scalpel into my stomach, and I have to divert myself, half-finish a sketch or scribble loose thoughts, bile seeping out via pencil.

The stove top sizzles. I guzzle a tin of steamy grey-brown, soon enough spoon-scraping encrusted gravy, ignoring doctor’s orders. The day’s travails have left me ravenous and recovering. Walk, clinic, bus, mall and what I essentially had smeared into my face within those old doors.

I pace my cottage, peruse dusty canvases, savour the final flavours of mashed meal against gums, then Lucien intervenes, a mind virus. My street scene he may as well have Xeroxed, simple inversion of colour, a cloying gloss to give it his signature dog-whistle to dealers. The whisking away of Francesca, just as soon as she’d sat for me. The paint not even dried before they were rutting in a beach house someplace. And then, of course, the mall, and that line for the papers: In a building near-bereft of art, I shall build a gallery aglow with natural splendour. Bereft! Acid throat, limbs cramped with rage, woozy, I lie on the dim bathroom tiles a while.  But just as paint won’t flow to my will, the day’s ignominies flood through me.

*

Inside, and I’m beaten about the head with piped music, mossy odour, birdsong, bright bustle of crowd and green. I ambled through in a stupor, but not without nostalgia. Lucien’s commission: curated re-wilding of orphaned infrastructure. The kidney-shaped fountain overflowing with fluid and fish. The spiral staircase somehow shell-like, enveloping and enveloped by sun. And there, at the top, on the now-treed balcony: my statue, unplaqued, untitled, but untouched. Somewhere in my mind’s ear, I heard a squeal. Then, from the gawking flocks and leafy undergrowth, Lucien emerged.

‘Bruno Kriegel! Come to see a classic, eh?’ – vague gesture, half-grin, and that look, those eyes and what was inside. I scowled, turned my back, didn’t care to play along with his photosynthetic hubris, caught the first bus home.

*

Flat, cool, soothed at the nape. Lying here, corporeal, rearranging doctor’s syllables in my mouth. Metachromatic autolysomal mucolipidosis.  Is that a mushroom growing up there by the air vent? Glowing? Doesn’t the day know it’s done? I shut my eyes, block it all out, but still: his little deceptions metastasising, corrupting, feeding off me and mine, decomposing my art and soul.

What I despise of Lucien Espinosa, in everything of his, interviews, artists statements, it’s evident in his work: he’s always banging on about light. The qualities of light, virtues of light, everything’s fucking light with him.

There on the tiles, I drift off, and the nightmare recurs. The doctors slice me open, despite my wishes. They botch it, it’s inevitable, and I’m flatlining, then I’m floating, and I look around the surgery, then the dark tunnel, awaiting, and it’ll be okay, so I drift, ready, but then: I see the glimmer, then the gleaming, then the light. It’s everywhere, it’s everything. I’m screaming, but it’s futile. It’s suffocating, all-encompassing. The light is all. All is filled with light.

Duncan Felton is a Canberra-based editor and writer. He also works in a library. He’s the founding editor at independent publisher Grapple Publishing, is one of the coordinators of Canberran literary collective Scissors Paper Pen and is co-producing the inaugural Noted Festival. His words have appeared in some publications like Verity La, Voiceworks, BMA, Burley and The N00bz: New adventures in literature. His overlong URL is duncanwritingeditingpublishing.com