Title: Untitled (2023)

Description: A large white canvas. Thick brushstrokes of acrylic: red, pink. Yellow wax crayon. Lead pencil. Strip of blue oil pastel along base of canvas.

A dialogue in two parts between the artist and their mother regarding Untitled (2023).


I wish I had never brought the painting home. It looked so different in the apartment. 

One of the students at the art crit said Untitled (2023) resembled a hundred kisses. The tutor noted how a Cy Twombly piece was once defaced by someone kissing the work. Their red lipstick on the white canvas was described by the prosecution as an act of cannibalism.

I repeated the name to you slowly… Cy Twombly… and you asked if I was speaking Welsh.

The colours of Untitled (2023) lost their sense of urgency beneath your dim, energy-saving lightbulbs. It looked as anonymous as any poster in a hotel lobby. 

I was vulnerable and spoke more about my anorexia and felt humiliated afterwards. You have shown nothing but disdain for Untitled (2023). The edges of the canvas began to yellow so I asked if you could smoke on the balcony.

There were days I would shake because I wanted to slap you across the face. I sometimes think we only went to bed so we could hate each other more the next day.

You know nothing about art. I think cleaning those Canary Wharf offices ten hours a day has rotted your brain. You got me a copy of the Da Vinci Code for Christmas because a girl at work said she enjoyed it.

When I came out as bisexual, you couldn’t even muster a response. I wanted you to say something, anything! You simply sat in your dressing gown all weekend and I couldn’t bear to look at you.

I felt embarrassed, asking them to hang Untitled (2023) in our decrepit apartment beneath your cheap lighting. They nailed it to the wall opposite the sofa, above the coffee table littered with your worthless magazines.

I wonder what it would have been like to have parents that introduced them to the work of Jasper Johns at the age of twelve. Growing up, there was nothing to read but a couple of John Grisham paperbacks.

The tutor compared Untitled (2023) to the work of Günther Förg. I wish that brought you some happiness, mother. I made it for you.


I wish you’d never brought that painting home. Why would I want to see that?

It’s so frantic. It’s a hurricane. It gives me a migraine. I remained silent and you spoke for hours about Untitled (2023). You described your pain like you’d created the Guernica of your generation. See, I do know something.

I wake up at 6am each morning. I have my coffee and cigarette in the dark and have to face that blizzard on the wall. You sleep in until 2pm for a Zoom meeting with a Toronto gallery.

I start to feel nothing. I turn on the television and there’s been a school shooting, a rainforest is on fire. I look at Untitled (2023) on the wall and it’s all the same. A big fucking mess.

The painting is a narcissistic provocation. You dress up your vanity in language about the body and trauma, and your sacred eating disorder. You’ve always been a snob. I pay all the bills and I’m the one that isn’t enough.

You never wanted to eat anything. You would bite at my breast rather than feed. You drew blood like a leech, instead of drinking my milk. I had to use a pump and throw it all down the sink.

I’m glad you didn’t invite me to the final degree show. You seem so phoney around those art school types. Your laughter rings hollow. You have this dream of your life like you’re living in a film. It’s embarrassing to watch.

I’m tired of hearing all the ways I’ve failed you. I’m sick of being guilt-tripped because your childhood didn’t include a tour of the fucking Louvre every summer.

You go on about sleeping with both men and women like it means anything. You’re still empty inside. You’ve always wanted to be someone else, someone rich. 

You speak about Marxism and queer theory because it gives you social credence but really, you’re just another wannabe yuppie.

I think if we sat down together and were both being honest, you don’t even like Untitled (2023). I think deep down you hate it. You’ve never liked anything you’ve made because you’ve created for the wrong reasons. Your heart is bitter. Oh, I’m sorry. Have I said too much?

— Matthew Kinlin lives and writes in Glasgow. His two novels Teenage Hallucination (Orbis Tertius Press) and Curse Red, Curse Blue, Curse Green (Sweat Drenched Press) were released in 2021. His novella The Glass Abattoir (D.F.L. Lit) and first collection of poetry Songs of Xanthina (Broken Sleep Books) are both due to be released in 2023.

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