Two masterpieces in Two Weeks
18 Oct 21 by justatest
Antonio Sammartano, art event organizer, artist, and gallerist asked me to send him two newly-minted masterpieces (capolavori) within two weeks for the opening of a group show at his gallery in Trapani [LINK].
As I hadn´t done any masterpieces in my life up to that point, I figured his generous allotment of one week each to get them done a true vote of confidence in me. Either that, or he was genuinely desperate.

Ahmed with two masterpieces

The cost involved in sending Dude and the other yet-to-do work in the end just didn´t make sense so I resolved the issue (and saved myself some money) by sending cash to Antonio asking him to give €150 each to two passers-by outside the gallery to come in and do a quick work on a waiting blank canvas (along with some brushes and colours). He accepted the money but instead offered it to Ahmed, an Egyptian artist, to come in and do two works (pictured).

These are the only masterpieces I have ever done.
What´s more I showed that photo to a girl I liked and her response was Oh.. he´s so handsome!
That heaped jealousy of him upon my already-existing envy of the apparent ease with which he executed a nicely thought-out intervention.
Nevertheless, I was very happy with the outcome - the debonair and talented Ahmed stepping in to save the day is a really interesting and fitting tribute to that fabulous winged creature of my youth mentioned earlier.

Update: Some weeks later, I did find a way to get the dude to Trapani at a much more reasonable cost. Whether it was ever exhibited I´m not quite sure. Also, the certificate of authentication (also previously mentioned), albeit amusing, was never made as the show had ended and I´d sort of lost the impetus at that point.

Free Dude (finished)

completed work

The dude was finished and I needed to urgently move onto the second masterpiece (that´s the less noticeable one in the early doodle sketch). First I needed to find out how I would send them off to Antonio in Trapani so I went to the local shipping agent and the price they quoted was just way too much. Asking around with other shippers all resulted in prices I couldn´t really afford. What to do?

A quick drawing

dude drawing

Not sure why I even did this but managed to make a bit of a drawing of (some of) the dude

Expletive alla romanaccia


Beside the title I added the incantation I would utter whenever I entered that grim garage studio. It was my version of how a Roman might say F**k off everybody (I then added the words including me for good measure).
This had nothing to do with the work itself, but I was definitely quite fed up with life in general at the time, and the garage had become my place of refuge.


title of piece

Encumbered by the exigencies of time, I resorted to gluing the title of the work printed on paper onto the base of the pallet. I would rather have hand-painted it instead.

We need some colour

initial paint

To speed the process up a bit I bolted the work to a pallet on wheels (so I could deftly spin it around to view from different angles whilst painting), and in so doing decided that the new base upon which it stood/rolled would become part of the sculpture itself.

Dumb thing

gesso on jute (front view)

Is it sufficiently ridiculous at this point?

Back view

gesso on jute

After three or fours coats of gesso, the final one is about dry and almost ready to paint.

Jute wrap

after gesso´ing the paper, allow it dry, then apply jute soaked in more rabbit-skin glue

Primary surface

paper foundation rear view

paper foundation

The paper, soaked in glue and applied, dries tight and creates quite a robust surface.

Base structure

side view

build out in metal wire

How might a masterpiece look?

doodling masterpieces and certs

Pondering the requirement masterpiece brought me back to my days at art school where, each day in order to reach the fine art faculty, I walked past the building housing the ceramics and glassblowing kilns. Every time I walked by brought a smile to my face. Perched on a high shelf by the window facing outwards was a conspicuous ceramic work moulded on the outline of a vase. It been warped and sculpted to resemble a winged mythical creature but in a laughingly ridiculous yet endearingly sensitive way that inexplicably managed to maintain an august historical gravitas along with side-splitting buffoonery. Whoever the creator was must be immensely proud of the achievement and I believed that it will win a prize, and without question sell for a high price at the end-of-year show.
I quickly grew to love that piece.
One morning well into the academic year, turning my head to receive my usual start-of-day boost of joy, I froze in horror. No!
The sculpture (it had by then become high-art for me) was in smithereens on the shelf. My arms dropped in disbelief and I don´t exaggerate by saying I hung my head in utter despair. Disconsolately, I entered the building imagining to find the artist in tears or in rages of anger. I wanted to express my sorrow and support after what must be a truly disasterous event.
Instead, what I found was the business-as-usual air of students milling around in preparation for the firing of their works. I stopped one and asked her about the broken vase. She wasn´t sure what I was talking about and once I clarified, pointed to a fellow student whose work it was. I went to him fully prepared to commiserate on the loss but he shrugged and said it was just a silly piece that he´d thrown together for fun that had fallen over, and was of no consequence.

So, the first masterpiece that I make will honour the memory of that fabulous winged creature. It physically won´t resemble it in any way but I would love to succeed in recreating just a little of the madness of that piece.

I furthermore propose to attach a certificate of authentication to (both) of the works attesting to the fact that each one being a true masterpiece - in order to pre-empt and mitigate any comments to the contrary.