By Vita Forest
And Uriel says No, the man over there was not who we were waiting for. A definitive NO, he was not a sketcher, he was full of rage and swearing and a moment ago, before we arrived, he had been shirtless, not a sensitive arty type, not one for contemplation. No. He was NOT part of the group.
Katerina sets up her stool smack in front of her subject. She doesn’t look for a convenient corner or ledge or wall to lean against. She doesn’t need a wall at her back to give her power, to give her anonymity, to blend into. Katerina plants herself right in the middle of the stream, an island the curious will have to circle around it. She owns it.
Who knew a stool could do that?
I crane up at a stone gargoyle gripping the wall with its six clenched toes. It could be an owl, a bat, a creature from a nightmare. Its toes are straining anyway, gripping that wall, about to launch, about to take off. And a woman from over the sea, from another land, wants to capture me as I capture the gargoyle. I am trapped on the ground with my sketchbook, mid-sketch, as it is trapped on the wall, about to take flight. With gestures she makes her request and at my wry nod, comes to stand beside me, to embrace me, to drape her arm around me, as her friend takes the photo (quicker than my sketch), before she too, comes inside the camera’s view finder to stand with me and save the encounter for posterity. What will they say about this moment? My friend… An artist… An Australian… Will the caption and the tales told last longer than the time it took to take the photo, to construct this story of intimacy and relationship? Was I like a wild animal momentarily tamed? How brave to touch the now anaesthetized form of the king of the jungle.
I move to get a fresh perspective, and hear Tomas giving Winona a lesson in perspective. He tells us that to be expressive, you don’t need to worry too much about perspective. That’s lucky. Buildings are hard for me, scare me a little. I decide to scare myself and sit on the stone floor with the comforting bricks of sandstone at my back and look through an archway to my subject beyond. My spot is cool and shady but people can and do stroll by, some nonchalantly glancing down at my sketch, surreptitious, furtive, curious without wanting to disturb or invade, playing it cool except for the small girl who peers down, leaning her hands on her knees unabashed and we smile at each other before she runs off, footfalls ringing on stone.
Around us, bells sing and chime. Up in the tower, someone plays their song and sends it out over the rooftops, over the hills, how far? The notes tumble and ring against the tiles and the glass and the stone, trickling down to the green green grass, emerald in its brightness, a stage we all face where tourists sprawl before drifting off again, before the heat of the sun becomes too much.
We skulk around the edges, in the shadows, looking in, looking up, looking through, looking past and measuring, recording, watching, the whisper of pencil on paper, the clench of finger muscles, the crick in the neck. The buildings are at once intimidating and playful, orderly and rambunctious, authoritarian and welcoming.
This is where I came to see my friend’s choir, where I came for a lecture, where Josie Alibrandi raced John Barton in that movie (as Lucy reminded me), where students for years and years meet, and Tomas came in the past with his family on silent Saturdays and abandoned Sundays when they were the only ones around, and this is the place where brides and their entourages visit for the atmospheric backdrops to the beaded and brocaded. And now we sit, facing in, around the periphery and study and record and express.