Behind the door lies a nightmare of torn canvas and splattered paint. Discarded depictions of half-finished women lie in mountainous piles, masking the entire floor beneath. Atop the creative excrement stands Maxwell Lekovic, clothes caked with acrylic and eyes tightly shut, before a fresh canvas. Deep into the artistic process, he appears to be dreaming.
His wakefulness, however, is exposed by the sharp darts of pupils underneath his heavy eyelids. Each corneal movement is punctuated by a short pause and a slight change in facial expression. Behind the facade of the room and deep within Max’s memory, stands the woman he is so desperately trying to capture. He moves from one feature to the next, taking her in the way one would try to inhale a deep breath. But when he opens his eyes, both he and her image lose focus. He must be alone.
Yet he is not. Outside the door, Andrew Chian paces back and forth, preparing himself to trespass into a world of beauty and deprivation. This is hardly his first visit, but Lekovic’s studio still induces him with deep unease. Regardless, it is of the utmost importance that Andrew retrieves Max in a timely fashion and also ensures that he comply with all the States’ demands. Time cannot afford to be wasted.
With a turn of the doorknob, the handle clicks into place. Suddenly, the pressure from the canvases pushed against the door is released and the door is thrust wide open. Consequent waves of paintings spill into the hallway and Andrew is nearly sent down a flight of stairs that, barring rare circumstances of incomprehensible luck, would not be climbed back up after descent. The whole event is either ignored or unnoticed by Max, whose concentration remains committed to constructing his perfect rendition.
Now distanced by a sea of failed portraits between the artist and himself, Andrew succumbs to temptation and begins to sift through Lekovic’s rejections. Though a departure from his task and a complete disregard for his orders, (nowhere was it entailed that he be allowed to shy away from the urgency expressed in his briefing for personal time to quench his artistic curiosity) it is hardly unexpected. Such lacks of constraint were quite characteristic of Andrew, and he excused himself citing the fact that he had always been an avid fan of Lekovic’s work and deserved something of a break given this hellish day.
Let it be noted that this admiration was restricted to Max’s artwork only and that he found his quirks, to put it modestly, less impressive. So less impressive, in fact, that upon being called to retrieve Lekovic, Andrew constantly reminded himself of the stakes at hand via an alert on his iPhone (displaying a message reading something along the lines of: “Do not get caught up in Lekovic’s nonsense. Make sure that he be at the courthouse by noon at the latest…”) scheduled to go off every ten minutes. Andrew was somewhere in the middle of this interval when he picked up another canvas to admire.
Even in its infancy the painting still evoked powerful emotion. Certain features were expertly detailed whereas others were barely outlined. Andrew moved his thumb over the painted woman’s dark-brown eyes. They were a moving shade of brown. Not moving in the emotional sense, nor as in looking around, but rather in a fluid appearance. They seemed filled with tears. Yet, there was none of the sadness to justify their presence anywhere else in the painting. It was quite an artistic achievement, but the piece was undermined by the hastily constructed jawline.
With each subsequent paintings, the same conclusion was revealed. The works’ greatest achievement would create such a drastic contrast with the works’ greatest failure that it was almost painful to look at.