It wasn’t the sort of picture you might like to look at. Some might even have said that it was terrifying: terrifyingly beautiful… but Jonas felt strangely drawn to it as if his name were etched deep into the canvas reaching out to him through the layers of paint.
He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for so late at night in the old gallery but some old memory prompted him to stay and watch.
He had first seen the painting on a school tour of the gallery. He’d never really liked art class but he’d fallen in love with the gallery. Art had been just another way of hiding from a world he felt thought very little of him. Another way to become invisible to a world who didn’t see him anyway.
The art teacher hadn’t said much about the painting but Jonas had stayed behind to see it without the distractions of his classmates. No one noticed he was missing.
An old man had appeared beside him, also intent on the picture. The two of them said nothing for some time, just with equal admiration at the terrifying beauty of the painting.
“Sometimes I feel as though if I look at this long enough, it might come to life.” The old man said, almost to himself.
“Excuse me?” Jonas had asked.
“When I’m here late at night I swear this painting changes. Changes into what it should be.” He turned to face the young boy, looking him with a curious look in his eyes, “When you look at it, don’t you feel as though it’s hiding its true self? Don’t you feel as though if you stood here long enough and opened your heart enough it might reveal itself for what it truly was?” he raised his bushy eyebrows expectantly.
The truth was, that had been exactly what Jonas had been thinking before the old man had appeared. Word for word. When he had looked back at the painting the colours seemed to shudder for a moment and when he turned back the man was gone.
Now there he stood, weeks later, waiting for something impossible.
He checked his watch to see how much time he had left before the gallery closed and out of the corner of his eye his could have sworn he saw the painting stretching. His head snapped up and the lights around him flickered for only an instant and then something extraordinary began happening.
The colours began swirling as if the canvas was some LCD screen morphing one painting into another. The dark abstract began to take on another form, contours of a face began appearing along with the length of someone’s neck. They looked oddly familiar but in the absurdity of the moment Jonas had lost all logic and couldn’t recognise it. He felt as though he was watching an artist re-construct his own painting, moving shades here and adding light there. The end result took Jonas’ breath away.
It was him. His face, looking back at him. He gasped and looked around. Was someone playing a joke on him?
“I am the artist.” A voice whispered in his ear.
He checked over his shoulder, scanning the empty room. “Who’s there?” he asked.
“I am the artist and you are my work of art.” The voice came again. It was overflowing with a kind of love Jonas felt he knew little about. The unconditional kind.
“My work of art, Jonas.” It came from many different directions at once now.
“Who’s doing this?” Jonas cried.
“Don’t you recognise my voice?”
Jonas stood mute. He wondered whether he had fallen asleep waiting for something to happen and now lay dreaming the entire thing.
“It’s me. Your Creator.”
Memories of kneeling beside his bed as a little boy came flooding back. Memories of a saviour who had created him. He stared at the face in the painting, now his own and marvelled at the fact that the love in the voice was meant for him.
“I see you Jonas. I love you, my beautiful work of art.”
The lights flared for one dazzling moment and then subsided leaving Jonas temporarily blind. The painting no longer held his face, nor did it seem as fascinating now. He smiled at the odd thought of being placed on a pedestal by an artist bragging about his creation. Never again would he hide. The Artist deserved better.
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