Stone Soup continued
The piece, called simply 'Effigy', possessed undeniable strength and beauty. Its gently convoluted surface had a patina whose lustre and sheen seemed at once to highlight and conceal invisible forces which pushed and pulled at the undulations from within. Organically uneven and bordering on the figurative, the imagination was constantly teased at each angle of sight. It could be at once the fearfully coiled and muscular profile of some animal poised to attack its prey in the depths of night, or an infinitely mournful Pieta, able to express loss and futility as deeply as a figure tenderly protecting a dead infant, or as overtly as a teardrop shed in tar. It had a quality of barely suppressed movement which gave the feeling it would come to life as soon as one's back was turned, and satirical cartoons made play on this. One had it climbing off the pedestal and catching a taxi home at the end of the day, and another making wry comments sitting at a bar while the jury used its chamber as a room in which to cast their adjudication votes.
Visitors passed around it in the kind of awed and silent procession reserved for those paying their last respects to deceased royalty. All except one.
University research specialists are renowned more for depth than breadth in their knowledge and experience of the universe, the world, or even the contents and function of their own kitchens. Magnus Traublin fell almost exactly into this stereotype, although his inclinations as a budding inventor made him more than usually aware of the contents and function of his kitchen. The reasons for his scholarly involvement in hanging around the geological department of the capital's university are as easy to explain as his reasons for visiting an art exhibition; he was in love. His girlfriend Julie was the deputy head of geology at the university, and it was she who had a burning passion for art, and who had insisted that he should broaden his horizons.
He had to chuckle as they walked the treelined pavement from the underground station to the exhibition centre.
"Do you remember last year?" he said, "I read about it in the papers. There was this room filled with a huge geodesic dome someone had made out of about four hundred identical connecting pieces of wood - bloody clever piece of mechanical construction. Apparently the artist had gone on holiday by the end of the show, and it was taken down by the organisers. They left the bits to be collected by some of his mates, who were of course delayed at the pub. Before anyone knew what was going on, the cleaners had bundled the big pile up and divided it between themselves for firewood!"
Julie gritted her teeth.
It was characteristic of his lateral way of thinking, but slightly ironic that Magnus should have been the one to alert her expert eye to the fact that they had dozens of similar 'works of art' to the impressively lit and awesomely expressive stone sculpture which had just won third prize in the national competition. She had at first been gratified by his intense interest in 'Effigy', and then as so often before (and since), ashamed of his disregard for the unrest and vexation of others, who were having to put up with a beautifully lit view of the back of his hat. After an intense examination which nearly resulted in his ejection from the gallery, he announced that there was a drawer full of the things in the departmental archive, which he was irritatingly fond of calling the 'Rock Pool'. She poured scorn on his barbaric attitude and crass comments and he, ever mindful of the advantages of a quiet life, decided to bide his time.
The next day, after a trip to the university drama department and some fiddling in the stock cupboard, Magnus called his beloved to this site of many an incipient romance. Had she anticipated some sexual encounter she was to be disappointed, but her surprise and amazement at what she actually saw immediately dispelled all other thoughts. He opened the door, switched on a number of lights (which included a number of ultraviolet bulbs of varying wattage and polarisation - Magnus knew all the tricks), and stood to one side. She gasped. There before her was a sister sculpture to the currently famous stone in the prize exhibition. True, the lighting was crude and the space more cramped, and the stone itself was smaller and less impressive, but there it was. All the moving undulations, secretive sheen, beautifully textured surface and suggestive shapes were there, thrown into precocious chiaroscuro against a primitive black cloth screen, all set up by Magnus that afternoon. In one final dramatic act, he turned off the lights, picked up the rock and took it out onto the neon and natural light of the corridor. He passed the now rather ordinary looking specimen to his colleague saying, "you know where this belongs, don't you...?"