'Art Detective' by Lucy Dougan | States of Poetry WA - Series Two

Lucy Dougan

Lucy Dougan

Lucy Dougan’s books include White Clay (Giramondo, 2007), Meanderthals (Web del Sol), and The Guardians


I lie on the couch
like a beaten dog
as Philip Mould advances
on his latest art forensics
and there are these absolutely
free and liberated daubs
of greens and browns
in close-up on the screen.
They are of the earth
in a surprising and counter way
to all that sateen, country houses,
rich people by the yard.
And from my beaten dog pose
I potentially fall in love with Gainsborough.
How could I have not before?

Philip Mould’s suit combos are impeccable.
He is always consulting experts,
always moving crisply through the
weak light of investigation sites
– the galleries – but his eyes
look infinitely tired
as if he has done so much
looking for us.
I trust his close-ups.

After enough experts
and trailing about,
there is Gainsborough again
with his louche letters,
and unsympathetic wife,
his treatment of waistcoats
and his small garden tray arrangements
that look touchingly a lot
like the moss tray gardens
of childhood
only more elaborate
with water features
and places to arrange a nymph or two,
a satyr.
They are a step up from what one
could get at the model shops,
though proximate, small feathery trees
and a brittle feeling of those bags
full of fake glittering lawn.

It leaves me unaccountably sad
that Gainsborough had to live with someone
who threw out all his dirty letters.
What a loss Philip Mould’s prim sidekick
says off guard, says passionately,
as the camera hovers over the tray garden
– this little grave of creativity –
and she’s right.

Lucy Dougan