Gainza takes is through a kaleidoscope of different painters, each colouring a different part of her past; the intense colouration of Rothko reflected in the issues to her eyesight which cause her to see the world in a different, cerebral, almost intense light, the lachrymose and-in the eyes of other people- grotesque Toulouse-Lautrec a reminder of her ephemeral relationship with a student Japanese girl and the wild, untamed seascapes of Courbet of her equally wild and tragic cousin. In this exquisite peace of metafiction, art serves to illuminate the narrator’s life, to lend meaning the emptiness which she sometimes she feels she is floating on.
Gradually the artistic anecdotes begin to coalesce with the narrator’s own life, as the story increasingly reads like a puzzle whose solution can be found in the lives of the various artist Gainza depicts. Despite their aesthetic differences, they each have their flaws, whether it be a slavish tendency towards commercialism or an irascibility and sense of independence which makes them impossible to get on with. Each of them is also trying to find some meaning or beauty in the world via their art and although they borrows from others, the originality of their art can often be unsettling and even frightening, not just because they see the world differently from others, but also because they are not afraid to reflect this in their art.
Ultimately this is a book about the wonders of art, but rather than paint a safe and sanitised picture of art, Gainza’s depiction is more cerebral, rawer and more edge, one where art is a product of pain and suffering, as well as a source of beauty; “The more perfect the artist, the more completely separated in him will be the man who suffers and the mind that creates”.