Spot

I wrote this piece in 2012. At some point it got lost from the website. I have edited this version a bit.

At first it was just graffiti. A few grotesque figures painted with a fine brush in red ink, around doorways. Each work had an ethereal beauty. Each work was signed Spot. There were goblins, rodents, weird forests, bacteria. There were internal organs, there were unfamiliar planets, there were galaxies. All traced out in the finest detail. Spot, somewhere on a line between Albrecht Dürer and Banksy.

These were doorways of galleries, museums and other places of culture. Despite being caught on CCTV several times, no-one could identify Spot. Spot’s face was always hidden.

But then things got more interesting. Breaking into the location, Spot would leave a work of art hanging on the wall, or on a small plinth. Items of intense beauty that seemed to deserve their place, and signed Spot. And at each break-in, by the doorway, the signature graffiti in red ink.

The police were not keen to investigate. They said it wasn’t your normal sort of crime. After all, the graffiti is lovely stuff, no damage has been done inside, and these artworks that Spot left behind are things of beauty. You could sell them for a lot of money.

So the police got on with other things that they considered to be more important.

Soon there was a movement to preserve the works of graffiti. And the places that had a Spot by the door became popular.

Around this time, my friend Shine came to me. Shine, the master trumpeter, with his floppy hair and his serious spectacles. The usual grin was not on his face. He was troubled.

He said – I am obsessed with the identity of Spot. Help me to find them.

I didn’t ask why, because I felt the same.

So we visited all the places where Spot had drawn graffiti. We negotiated with the museums and the galleries so that we could get a look at the artworks that Spot had left behind. An aqualung carved from amber. A rabbit, sitting like an old judge. A mobile made from golden hands suspended by silver threads.

We made a chart of all this information, with photos, names of places, dates. We spent long evenings puzzling over what we had found. Was there a pattern to these events? Was there a code or sequence buried in there?

We plotted the data on a map of London, drawing lines between the different locations, in order of date.

We studied the catalogs of artworks to see if we could match Spot’s style to a known artist. We took Spot’s handwriting to a graphologist, to see if we could get a handle on Spot’s character.

We drank coffee, we walked the streets, looking for clues. But we got no nearer to a solution.

Late one night, along a backstreet in the East End, we passed a gallery that we had visited once before the Spot affair had started. And there, on the doorframe, was a Spot graffito. It showed a lioness in midair, leaping at a wildebeest. Look, said Shine. The ink is still wet. And he pushed at the door, which swung gently open. There were white stairs descending into the basement gallery. A gentle light flooded the place.

The gallery was a single square room. Someone had built a circular wall of concrete, which almost filled the room. The top of the wall curved gently inwards. There was just enough space to get round the sides. The wood used in shuttering the concrete had left its imprint on the wall. You could see knots, the grain of the wood, splinters, all in the concrete. It was painted brilliant white. If you walked far enough around the wall you found a gap wide enough for a person to squeeze through.

The last time we visited the gallery, the inside of the structure had been covered with facsimiles of line drawings by Leonardo and Michelangelo, painted directly on the wall.

We edged round the room towards the gap in the wall. Looking in, we saw that the inside of the structure had been daubed with grey slip, and the room was filled with leaping human figures of grey clay. There were children, adults, old people. All joyously leaping to the sky. I was stunned.

There was a movement. It was Spot, running slip over the hand of one of the figures. Spot looked up then. She was wearing dungarees, grey with slip, her blonde hair cropped short, her face shining with joy. Hello, she said. Are you looking for me?

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