73 thoughts on “COLOR PLATES by Adam Golaski

  1. Any “Color Plates” below in this whole review are my assessed choices as to the Golaski text’s referred images of paintings….for you to decide whether such images to be seen now are spoilers for each vignette-sized plate of prose.
    The black and white text, I guess, represents EITHER more examples of this author’s supreme weird literature (some of which I reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/worse-than-myself-by-adam-golaski/) OR equally supreme inferred colourful prose-music constituents of a ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’-type tour in which my job is to find the gestalt from such leitmotifs. It is probably both these things and more.



    The first plate named ‘prologue’, a plate that is unnumbered, leaving the second plate to be numbered one, it will be seen, it seems.

    Portrait of the Artist 1878

    “Paintings are brushstroke upon brushstroke.”

    A Proustian palimpsest of text and inferred paint, a self-portrait by Mary with richly textured memories of people in her life and of this ‘body’ she left behind.
    Thoughts of Galaxies and ‘God’ too.

    You live a day a day to put life in, and I intend to adumbrate each forthcoming plate no more than diurnally, perhaps less than.

  2. book one


    [ PLATE 1 ]

    Boy with Cherries 1858

    “The small man who looked like Dad pointed down to a spot on the bed, where I
    could see he had a collection of marbles.”

    The brother and sister in this story (from whose point of view this painting is obliquely looked at) remind me of my own son and daughter. When they were children, I used to conduct them, individually at different ages, through books of famous paintings and we discussed each one in some detail. The idea of this book has brought those occasions back to me with a rush.
    I myself used to be obsessed with marbles as a child (see here: https://t.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/marble-racing/ and this painting reminds me of me then. Never seen it before.)

  3. [ Plate 2 ]

    Luncheon on the Grass 1863

    “: cherries march towards a baguette like ants.”

    A particular narrative rationale and modern aftermath for this painting that transcend both serendipity and ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ (my seasoned phrase that you can google.)
    For ‘shards’, now read ‘pearls’.

  4. [ Plates 3 & 4 ]

    Olympia 1863

    “Let me describe for you a scene.”

    You can then see it from link above. A woman wearing the pearl earrings from the previous Color Plate, pearls like pearl-pale cherries that I discern, although the description itself withholds this feature. It is more obsessed with her black ribbon holding the gestalt together, as well as her head.
    Another striking passage of weirdness as a fiction-painting palimpsest.

    My personal (non-Manet) ‘color plate’ as further extrapolation:

  5. [ Plate 5 ]

    Portrait of Emile Zola 1868

    “Of course, when glass is broken it cannot not repair itself…”

    A telling double negative there, as if deliberately or inadvertently echoing my earlier reference to ‘synchronised shards’…
    A description of Zola in his office and his meditation effectively on the nature of death by a bullet and the particle physics of skin and sand, and with the previous Color Plate actually on the wall of the office in this Color Plate!
    Whenever I see the name Zola I think of the violent castration scene in his ‘Germinal’.

  6. [ Plate 6 ]

    The Railway 1873

    “A blue bow as big as a girl.”

    Woman and girl by the railings. The older with another black band or ribbon round the neck. The younger has one around her hair. Grapes, too, bottom right, grapes instead of cherries or marbles or pearls.
    This fascinating textual extrapolation of a famous painting into a weird scene with an additional character, a young man, involved, and a retriangulation of coordinates into a new adventurous modernity, reminds me of the discussions about paintings and resultant story-telling that I conducted with my own children during the 1970s and 1980s. Makes this book even more of a delight, with my being the child this time round.

  7. [ Plate 7 ]

    Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of an Espada 1863

    “Goya lurks.”

    He still does.
    A bull fight film in a cinema where someone in the auditorium, every screening, masquerades as a bull-fighter in front of some of the scenes.
    A painting canvas as well as a cinema screen can be susceptible to the pricking of a picador. And sitting behind it is found some feeble back-projecting Wizard of Oz – or Goya himself?
    I wonder what the Picasso-like group right at the back of the Manet canvas is gossiping about?
    They still do.

  8. [ Plate 8 ]

    The Balcony 1869

    “That we see a skull of smoke above their heads is a wonder of paint chemistry and fear.” [ See skull of smoke here yesterday. ]

    A fascinating and detailed weirdness of an extrapolation from the characters in Manet’s THE BALCONY and an approaching visitor across arguably unnatural hills. The first Last Balcony?

    Paintings (Manet modelled) from the ultimate ‘Last Balcony’ posted a few years ago HERE:-




  9. [ Plate 9 ]

    A Bar at the Folies-Bergere 1881

    “Behind the bar the mirror holds the memory of the night before.”

    …which is a striking conceit for this famous Folies-Bergère bar painting, a conceit that is memorably extrapolated here, with references to sand (as constituent of the mirror behind the bar, I ask?) and a music-like ‘dying fall’ ending to die for. And of course the colour plate of oranges.

  10. [ Plate 10 ]

    On the Beach 1873

    “I heard my boyfriend get up and pee.”

    A woman and man on the beach, she with hat and veil that look to me like a skull, and this book’s black ribbon…
    Seen by another couple not seen by the painting.
    An evocative description of one of those skylines, now stretched out in time, and its witnesses … Photo sea-skyline images that often pepper my social media.

  11. [ Plates 14 & 15 ]

    Luncheon in the Studio 1868

    I have just noticed I have accidentally leapt over three intervening color plates; there may be some hidden meaning to that accident, when seen in later hindsight. I will rectify the omissions in coming days. The author seems to omit plates, himself, as not all his numbering relates to named painting plates.

    “The woman grunted.”

    This one represents an amusing discussion of a writer submitting to a publisher, as well as the painting itself being full of still life, but full also of things alive, including people and the objects themselves! A lemon with peel hanging, peel and pearl of light? And more plates within a plate.

  12. [ Plates 11 & 12 ]

    Claude Monet in His ‘Studio’ 1874

    “He dips the tip of his brush into her skin,…”

    Monet in his studio boat painted by Manet. Only one letter different, and only one letter different, too, between boat and boar as in boar bristles of the brush that produces such real light from the water.
    This type of exquisition from paint will lead you to look at not only paintings differently but also literature as weird fiction.
    (Perhaps there are two Plate numbers above, because there is a painting within the painting?)

  13. [ Plate 13 ]

    Blonde with Nude Bust 1875

    “I opened the box. ‘I don’t know. It looks like a big yellow slipper.'”

    It was a hat, I mistook not my wife for a hat, but a hat for a slipper. A fulsome portrait, with a happy ending of future fruit within her belly – to join the cherries, lemons etc.?

    “I wanted to occupy the whole room.”

  14. [ Plate 16 ]

    The Fifer 1866

    “Here, flat tones rather than careful grading. Here, shadows cast on nothing.”

    Aunt’s memorial, Aunt’s attic, the man who was once the boy, with childhood nostalgia staying with his aunt, the boy who could have dressed like this painting with its uniform jacket, but now his fiancée is small enough to dress in it in likeness to the painting instead. Her bust must surely be smaller than the painting’s bust in this review’s previous color plate, if not the previous painting in this book.
    The Fifer Boy is even flatter than the text about it, but both equally striking. The Drummer Boy on stage next?

  15. [ Plate 17 ]

    The Execution of Emperor Maximilian 1867

    “Cut this execution to pieces.”

    Almost a cut-up or ready-made or found art by Manet, a boy’s memory of a black and white TV Pre-Blair Witch Project, pre-Internet, now post-TV, post-modern, and I can empathise fully with this boy in what turns out to be a very strong well-aimed example of Weird literature. Unmissable.
    (Look like cameramen looking over the wall?)

  16. [ Plate 18 ]

    Boating at Argenteuil 1874

    “An ocean of boys, bobbling like plastic bath toys, rocking gently against each other, soundless, stiff.”

    You will need to go far to find another vision like this one as simply evoked by a man and woman in a boat. I am reminded of my father Gordon who often told me that he, as a boy in the 1920s and 30s, with two other boys, often jumped off the dock together into the water at Llanelli. One of those other boys was Desmond his brother who was later lost presumed dead in the Indian Ocean when a Japanese submarine sunk his ship during the 2nd World War.

  17. book two


    [ Plate 20 ]

    Head of a Young Woman 1867

    This text is a very powerful vision of a man’s own wife whom he lusts after as much as after any illicit woman. And like the vase in the previous plate, here it is meaningfully a jar. An objective correlative. As is this wonderful painting of a woman’s head.

  18. [ Plate 21 ]

    Spartan Girls and Boys Exercising 1860

    “HER:        ”

    The painting of the Spartan girls and boys, the former taunting the latter, I guess, transposed to two play-written dramas, the first that ends with the second one as contextual continuation of it with narrative between, and a salacious swimming party of those acting in the plays themselves…
    Young love or lust. A rough cut Spartan painting of Spartans, rough cut like their thoughts…

  19. [ Plate 22 ]

    The Dancing Class 1876

    A painting with depth enchantingly transliterated by logographics via a young girl’s yellow wallpaper moments when she creates a shadowbox with material supplied by of her father. There is a reference, too, to the previous Spartan painting. And there is a disturbing twist in this tale’s tail…or a ballerina’s twisted ankle?

  20. [ Plate 23 ]

    The Dancing Class 1880

    “Where the ballerinas and the mothers are not is yellow. […] I, too, am entangled, with Degas, his paint.”

    Nobody goes into these paintings, I guess, but I think those already in it can come out. Here the mothers come out of it to attend to a father who has lost his once dancing daughter? The second consecutive plate in this book where, at the end, a girl falls off a roof. ( cf ‘Fates of the Animals’ by Padrika Tarrant: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/fates-of-the-animals-padrika-tarrant/)
    The gestalt builds from this book of plates so far, but whither or whence does it build? Not even Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy as a literary theory can be my fig-leaf.

  21. [ Plate 24 ]

    The Cotton Market, New Orleans 1873

    “Slavery, you might not know, is terrible.”

    A painting of several figures in an office, frozen in time. And there follows this book’s most fascinating plate-talk so far, with a palimpsest of time now and then, a treatment of the concept of time itself, as the viewer sees his grandfather in the image and much else. Then news was slow-motion, now real-time. I found a brown human arm in my bed this morning.

    “two texts on tissue paper.”

  22. [ Plate 25 ]

    At the Race Course 1869-72

    “A turkey-vulture flew past at eye-level.”

    Off-the-track, finding carousel horses and my foolhardy friend teasing one of the ‘jockeys’ with the lit end of his cigarette. He’s a big-headed person who leads me to the Tower to witness better from the top his foul scorched-earth policy behind us.

  23. [ Plate 27 ]

    The Tub 1886

    “‘There,’ she points, ‘that yellow stain is like a painting hung on the wall.'”

    I rcall as a child in the 1950s, I had to use a tin bath to squat in. Here a moon, as a woman is in palimpsest upon the woman in the painting, as watched by her boy friend. Poetic allusions as part of an entrancing description, with some accoutrements such as a TV. Almost a ghost story.

  24. [ Plate 28 ]

    The Bellilli Family 1860-62

    “Who can possibly be happy in the final moments of annihilation?”

    Who can? This is ostensibly a description of the above painting where I had never noticed before that one of the daughters has a leg missing and the dog no head.
    But the description parses off into a haunting premonition by Degas, and probably in 2010 by Golaski, too, of the coming moments of our Trumpish times now, and of bombs, and terrorists…

  25. [ Plate 29 ]

    Dancers at the Bar 1876-7

    “Degas drew two girls, one more lightly, an echo of the other.”

    A male palimpsest of two sisters amid the modern drug-taking student scene. Yellow wallpaper, too. A telling off-kilter portrait of our times factored into and from a Degas painting…
    Unusual thinking, though, is not always a sign of sophistication.

  26. [ Plate 30 ]

    Breakfast after the Bath 1883

    “The giant blade of grass is a wall between sleep and awake…”

    The cabin fever, as a mother helps with her daughter’s bath, the daughter’s baby near by. Encroachment of the daughter’s inimical husband towards this safe house? Or the encroachment of nature’s Gaia itself? Tellingly, a bit of both, I suggest. A bit of bath.

  27. [ Plate 31 ]

    A Ballet Seen from an Opera Box 1885

    “Absolute realism is always deeply strange.”

    …as is the fact that this interwoven text of a brother and sister and a chance book, a transformation into a whale, a view of the ballet on the stage and his sketching g a door to the secret of that stage seems miraculously to blend two other works I am reading today and still reviewing, Leena Krohn’s The Pelican’s New Clothes and Jason A Wyckoff’s In the Library.

  28. [ Plate 33 ]

    The Mante Family 1889

    “: mother makes the ribbons from very tiny ribbons.”

    A sense of gestalt dreamcatching? Aka hawling?
    A beautiful collage of the girls in the painting and others seen and unseen.
    Fiction has many characters to whom we are not introduced within it.

    “Politics are dumb and art is a belovèd wash of watercolor paint…”

  29. book three

    noeud[ Plate 34 ]

    Young Routy 1882

    I don’t dare tell him she thinks the hat he wears stupid. His tie, meanwhile, made from black ribbon, I reckon – another garter snake?
    I think this whole book is threaded through with black ribbon, whether it is or not. The colours often hide it.

  30. [ Plate 36 ]

    The Laundress 1889 1886?

    “I see the precedent of Degas, who towers, quite literally, over Toulouse-Lautrec.”

    This is an absorbingly meticulous or obsessive scrutiny of a girl’s thoughts, worry about someone seeing her ‘panties’, as she watches the Laundress. At once sensual and naive. Like many of these accompaniments to the Color Plates, it is a slice of Robbe-Grillet or Michel Butor.

  31. [ Plate 38 ]

    A Corner in the Moulin de la Galette 1892

    “The fat man is horrified because he does collect strands of hair from the pretty woman’s jacket during class,”

    An extrapolation of these cafe characters as school kids interacting…
    An ironic retrocausality to the Spartans painting?
    ‘Weak chin’ when heard but not read sounds to me like someone’s name like ‘Wan Ju’?

  32. [ Plate 40 ]

    At the Moulin de la Galette 1890

    “David Bowie?”

    That name always needs a ?
    PIty She Was A Whore.
    A nifty modern dance scenario with DJ and sexual politics.
    Not sure I have got the right Lautrec painting above. It does have a woman with green face. If the author ever sees this review, perhaps he will correct it by putting a link to the right painting in a sub-comment below.

  33. [ Plate 41 ]

    A La Mie 1891

    “– Toulouse-Lautrec loved to repeat motifs because every object has more than one meaning.”

    The couple have an absurdist conversation about, inter alia, cutting up a blue sky.
    His moustache seems to be false, fastened by black thread.

  34. [ Plate 43 ]

    At the Moulin Rouge 1892

    “Look at her face, says Toulouse-Lautrec; at her face, said Degas.”

    The difference between says and said. This is a devastating narration of a Halloween event, if only the narrator knew when he started it. Woman with green face (again) and his face of bone.

    I have just noticed I inadvertently skidded in the ice and missed Plate 42, life the universe everything. Sorry. I shall make amends when I take up this review again – tomorrow?

  35. [ Plate 44 ]

    La Visite: Rue des Moulins 1894

    A striking painting of two prostitutes on medical parade, quite new to me. This tells me they are identical women if I turn my back on them and they disappear. Nothingness as a mass of identical things by dint of their invisibility? The seedy scene in the text behind this painting is someone else’s unpadlocked pad. As I am frozen forever in the action of removing my (black?) tie for one such woman. Her uncrossed legs and a bruise. And other haunting mentions.

  36. [ Plate 45 ]

    Woman Fixing Her Stocking 1894

    “Years later, maybe in the distant future, maybe in outer space, my wife and I honeymooned in a small museum.”

    A dream-like re-enactment of that painting, a sexual role-playing. Unforgettable epiphany. In the plate, one of the stockings looks like scrawls of black thread wound round and round?

  37. [ Plate 46 ]

    The Grand Loge 1897

    “Her eyes are blanks: they are pearls.”

    At a symphony concert (Ernest Chausson’s?) at this theatre, a boy with his family speculates about ‘mountain-climbing’ to the various balconies and swinging on a chandelier. His sister draws his dream, without his telling her about it. And I draw threads aand leitmotifs from this book, too, without Golaski telling me overtly about them.

  38. [ Plate 47 ]

    The Toilette 1896

    “The soul is in the bones.”

    Looks like my childhood tin bath from the 1950s. Degas and light, imported by T-L. Light and a skeleton. A black stocking, too. A memorable vision of the boyfriend daydreaming and watching this lady’s lavatorial.
    If every reader of this book as well as its author triangulates all the other triangulations with his or her own real-time review, then we shall likely reach its nub beyond any intention.

  39. [ Plate 48 ]

    Madame Berthe Bady 1897

    “…such rot is a sure sign of his genius.”

    I felt berthed within her stomach, by dint of the accompanying Golaski text.
    These interfaces of text and painting in this book so far are genuinely producing for me a new reality previously unmet.
    Note Berthe’s quiff of hair on the forehead, too.

  40. [ Plate 49 ]

    Private Room at ‘Le Rat Mort’ 1899

    “She laughed. A tent of veil, twisted like a wax candy wrapper, finished with a black bow.”

    An extrapolation of this painting, leading to a boy’s own ad hoc extrapolation of himself being shared by mouth at birth in a post-birth swallowed form between his mother and father.
    When does an extrapolation become a dream of the truth?


  41. image
    [ Plate 50 ]

    The Modiste 1900

    “Pity was now all he could muster.”

    The lady in the painting seems to have a black bow in her hair? The lady in the text now in her sixties, her marriage in ennui, buys a box of boxes, while her husband fails to buy the toy he fancies having seen it in the same shop. The account of the boxes is one of the masterstrokes of literary weirdness, I suggest, and the boxes within boxes of paintings make this book worth its entrance price for this text alone, as well as many other texts being each worth the price alone.

  42. book four

    [ Plate 51 ]

    Head of a Young Girl 1876

    “–she plunges into a leaf-self.”

    Another massive weird extrapolation from the original image, one that I can live with.
    Voyeurism, ‘hot’ self-voyeurism through the imagined viewpoint of others. Collar, hem, “flick of my long hair”, “hairs at my nape.”
    Major stuff, this.
    Each plate in this book is a leaf on a single tree?

    Cassata consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese, candied peel, and a chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream. – from Wikipedia

  43. [ Plate 52 ]

    Reading ‘Le Figaro’

    “There was a string of time during which I woke only in the small hours.”

    A chain (?) hanging from her black glasses, black hair shining, newsprint and black grass. This is a densely textured treatment of the loss of one’s mother, and her bodily nature; why does death and dreamless sleep throw a retrospective time’s waste upon a lifetime habit of, say, reading the news? Now, using the Internet?
    There are some striking images in this text that are worth reading, though.

  44. [ Plate 53 ]

    Baby Reaching for an Apple 1893

    “…as you and I know, what matters is what’s true, not what other people think is true.”

    Possibly the most striking painting image so far, and a text to match. One can actually FEEL it. And I do not give my brief reaction each day since I started this book for its own sake or to add or subtract anything to or from the book, but simply to record my rite of passage through it. To say I was there.

    There is a wise weird truth to this book, ever accreting. And sparrows flying back and forth between us. But what about them apples?

  45. [ Plate 54 ]

    Little Girl in a Blue Armchair 1878

    “…dust and ice planets.”

    A man visits the girl’s mother for romantic purposes but ends up talking to the girl more, playing at astronauts, and having grown-up conversations about planets, and whether Pluto is one. There is a dog, too, in a blue chair, Edward, not Pluto.
    Not a social or family comedy, but a social or family weird fiction. A new genre that peppers this book.
    The Color-Plate syndrome. End to end like a colour Pluto cartoon…

  46. [ Plates 56, 57 & 58 ]

    At the Opera 1878

    “She long ago lost the thread of the opera’s narrative, her mind lost in the woven fabric of a black cloth sack.”

    I have linked above to ‘In The Loge’ which I feel is at least one of the plates intended. A worryingly graphic description of what she sees, as she later sews. Torture, non-words, a hairy rope and other weirdities. This text seems crucial.

  47. [ Plate 59 ]

    Lady at the Tea Table 1883

    “Drawn with black ink was a simple line surrounded by landmarks,…”

    A woman narrator and her daughter visit the aunt, and much touching detail of interaction, Proustian memories and objects, some more buried than others. The girl a statue from Degas come to life with a curtsy?
    Those who can can. Those who can’t can’t.

  48. [ Plate 60 ]

    Five O’Clock Tea 1880

    “Wherever there is pressure from a pencil, the soft ground adheres and exposes, and so when immersed, lines are bitten in.”

    A substantive and delightful immersement in a girl’s birthday party, the hierarchy of girls, including the concept of a “least friend”, and a model plane that seems eventually transcendent. And plates to eat off instead of to hold,paintings.

  49. [ Plate 61 ]

    Lydia Leaning on Her Arms, Seated in a Loge 1879

    These paintings by Mary Cassatt continue to be a revelation for me. This one has an accompanying text, as if she is watched and touched by her young son, a tingling of being watched, then I watched, meeting her beau Gray, announcing she is pregnant, another of those threads of being assessed by children, or assessing how they assess you, you them. Here the threads are the actual texture of her dress, if you look closely enough. Becoming her own son’s umpteenth wet nurse?

  50. [ Plate 62 ]

    The Cup of Tea 1880

    “‘It’s a loop,’ he said…”

    Possibly, the most storified story in this book, as two boys grapple the boat across the bay, to find a woman drinking a cup of tea… A Proustian vision, then a Golaskan vision of a grand meulnes and….
    The initial Cassatt in this book, at this book’s very beginning, self-portrait of the artist with her own loop of black ribbon tied not to a boat but a bow?
    Now the ribbons are around the arm of an armchair.

  51. I feel like a spinning through the last few plates, just like those Variety Show acts I saw on TV as a child, plates spinning on vertical willowy sticks, and the spinner keeping them spinning, twirling each in turn, ever-twirling…

    [ Plate 64 ]

    Girl Arranging Her Hair 1886

    “Someone needs to get up on the bike, make it steady.”

    A story with unadmitted sexual-voyeurism guilt, balancing the bike and spotting the girl with red hair and flushed face doing her pigtail, plait or ponytail, as far as I can judge by studying the painting. I feel If I have steadied a book, not a bike.

  52. [ Plate 65 ]

    The Boating Party 1894

    “…but don’t forget that most stories start before you know they have.”

    …like the gestalt story of the whole book’s leitmotifs.

    The latest leitmotifs are that of light and colour, and a boat (one with string rowlocks), a baby born fancifully from a rainbow fish flung into the boat, and a man rowing … and using his scarf as a cummerbund. Above all, child and mother told between them of the Painting and the Past. A plate that is late?

  53. [ Plate 66 ]

    Children Playing on the Beach 1884

    “Not a memory, but a picture that lives like a memory now.”

    This reminds me again of going through paintings one by one with my own children, one by one, at their respective impressionable ages, two children also called Brother and Sister.
    At one moment he or she is in the painting, the next moment on the couch with me, book of paintings in hand.

    “Would it get some wind for the sailboat…” – Philip Glass (Einstein on the Beach)

    “Not a memory, but a picture that lives like a memory now.”

    This reminds me again of going through paintings one by one with my own children, one by one, at their respective impressionable ages, two children also called Brother and Sister.
    At one moment he or she is in the painting, the next moment on the couch with me, book of paintings in hand.

    “Would it get some wind for the sailboat…” – Philip Glass (Einstein on the Beach)

  54. epilogue

    Portrait of the Artist 1878

    “The book is a story, but hidden inside that story are other stories,…”

    Topped and tailed by Mary, the same Color Plate recurring, a dégàs vu, a HEM of light (Henri, Edouard/Edgar, Mary), a divertimento of images.
    Mary as assonance with Manet, and then Lautrec like some foreign word for Light, to lose no colour. Her husband, Joseph…. A golden tree with a golden bough or bow.

    A cassation of loose ends made whole.


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