A Series of Paintings entitled

The Mordant Rover's Gadabout

By Matthew Roberts

The title of this collection of paintings could be likened to an ill-conceived British television series of travel jaunts. The show failed miserably due to the host's droll delivery and self-loathing manner. Pitched just this and that side of melancholy, the aborted experiment is consigned to the dust bin of obscurity only to be resurrected years later by a devoted cult group that attends its every midnight showing at an obscure theater. Junk that was scribbled on scraps of paper faded photographs and used ticket stubs stuffed into every conceivable pocket leave a plethora of clues to peer into our guide's psyche.

Cimitero Monumentale We begin with a lapse in sound judgment concerning intercontinental interludes in Cimitero Monumentale in Florence. Our hero's dashed plans and piling regrets in a definitively Italian setting are juxtaposed against something quintessentially American: the minimal instrumentation of Johnny Cash's "Train of Love" and the saga of Flannery O'Connor's "Wiseblood." The dour, introspective epitaph of the doomed relationship failed to resonate with a broad audience despite its generous literary references and brilliant metaphors.

Seeds of Discontent The moral sacristan must have been slacking as an engagement party arrangements were proceeding at the Villa Manin in the little village of Passarino near Udine. With a long history as an agricultural and commercial center, the Manin family welcomed many visitors from Venice and its colonies from across the sea. A germinating seed, heretofore lying dormant from one of the villa's granaries is watched over by a protectorate of six carrion crows in the dark shadows of the reedy canal where creeping ivy creeps and the weeping willows weeps. A queer congress of nature plays beyond the view of the villa: elegant pomp and the portent of transgression dances together as a metaphor for the bride-to-be's past carnal indiscretions and her sublimated need to repeat them in the future, which excoriates the adage: "Your first romantic encounter will dictate the limits of all others in the future." Our guide unwittingly stumbles into this abstruse garden bereft of the sagacity or the tools to plumb the psychological depths of Seeds of Discontent.

Lighthouse Keepers Revenge Why ponder Greek tragedies when you can just as easily create your own? Here's an example: Inspired by a respite from the cruelty of London, a seaside holiday is sabotaged by a "Seaman's Widow Fund" collection box at a train station in Beachyhead. Our travel companion's tales of her Mediterranean trysts are wed with The Maritime Museum in Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece. This boatman has a story to tell. A world-weary and heart-broken lover is burdened with the task of manning a remote lighthouse on a potentially dangerous seafaring route. Unbeknownst to his employers, he boards up the lamp with driftwood and collects the figureheads of the crashed ships. Despite the Greeks' penchant for analyzing dreams, Lighthouse Keepers Revenge needs no explanation.

A stereotypical cross-cultural decorative object becomes a thing of presage when a timer-light shuts off abruptly on a staircase landing in a small hotel in Venice. Dripping with Pathos An after-image of a multicolored drip candle in a Chianti bottle is forthwith elevated to the level of haunting harbinger in Dripping with Pathos. Every quivering drip, dribble, and trickle of the cumulative stalactite ooze conjures an Italian "grotto grip" in our traipsing traveler. Failed beseeching of strangers on the canals and bridges leaves our guide to his own devices for enlightenment. Word has it that it is a perverted remnant of a virginity test left over from Marco Polo's sea-trade days. Near the temple of Diana in Ephesus was a grotto that doubled as a test for chastity. When a woman enters it and discordant sounds are heard, the woman is never seen. If however, musical sounds are heard, the woman is a pure virgin and comes from the grotto unharmed. When a long return voyage to the silken waters of Venice provides the opportunity to contemplate this carnal calumniation vitiated by stops at Greek ports for wax, an aberration of a myth is created which radiates with an incessant calling from a collective unconsciousness. From this same ear Of Venetian history is a complimentary male myth regarding the competitive size of pepper grinders that space does not permit a digression.

the Moon is in the Gutter European cityscapes run together into an endless gag-reel of architecture dividing the ethereal and the corporeal. This severance is broodingly depicted in The Moon is in the Gutter wherein our lunatic becomes a vedutisa with a decidedly nether point of view. His circadian rhythm maligned by a truncated playbill of time zones and lodgings results in an ecclesiastical morass whose only companion is the constant phases of the moon. The cyclic waxing and waning is raised to such a level of venery as to not even be gazed upon directly, but be viewed in reflection. Whether decrial or decrescent, treasured in the moon is everything wasted on this earth: misspent time and wealth, broken vows, unanswered prayers, fruitless tears and unfilled desires.

Requiem for a Busy Hand Requiem for a Busy Hand is a restful and frankly restrained example of our guides many "handsome interiors." The Coptic Church in Cairo collides with Turkish tiles and a Moroccan Sultan's display of armory. The seven candles respectfully borrowed from the Sistine Chapel in Santa Maria Maggioe decorating the ciborium are casually arranged around a severed hand atop a stack of thirteen bibles. From Fra Anngelico's painting in the Chapel of Nicolas V in the Vatican comes the archdeacon's vestment which softens this inviting setting with cozy warmth uncommon to a room where religions collide.

A meretricious residuum of conflict still clings to the cypress along the bank of the monsoon swollen tributary. A remembrance of a tatterdemalion disguised as a Sita in a wrapping of Kashmir wool results in Made in Paisley. The peregrination makes a severe psychological detour from the Indian epic chronicling. Rama's spiritual voyage from Man to God called the Ramayana. Armed with only the ineffectual protection of a souvenir letter opener culled from the gift shop of the Freud Museum in Hampstead, written vagaries, half-truths and lies by omission are decrypted under Sig's insightful gaze. It seems that this Hindu Hoyden has woven from the elements a tapestry of deceit preying on our wanderer's weakness for all things foreign. Made in Paisley By charming her prey with the powers of her cultural antiquity, she abruptly abandons her lobotomized victim. Weakly hiding behind a lover's disguise, our guide disentraps himself of any preconceived logic and plummets into a pit of obsolescence. In the light of hindsight, he claws his way back to solemnize his own personal Diwali. The tragedienne in this cultural conflict is the eldest of three daughters who bore the brunt of the transition from Calcutta to London. After years of Queen's English and piano lessons, she is suddenly thrust into a pre-arranged marriage in a small village in India. Vociferously reneging her father's contract, she repeats her endless cycle of conflict by mortgaging her emotional trauma against her father's ghat of guilt. The father is caught between the polemic wants of his cultural heritage and the damaged daughter's endless global retribution for what she perceives was done to her by males. What remains are the William Morris wallpaper and fabric designs that permeate everything English coupled with a rumination in a small Scottish town called Paisley that pioneered the manufacture of Kashmir wool shawls featuring a teardrop shaped plant motif derived from the Persian cypress we know today as Paisley.

A Constellation of Baubles A Berber girl's weekly sojourn from the Atlas Mountains to the walled city of Marrakech is interrupted by a dream of a more sybaritic lifestyle when her apothecary leanings are briefly forsaken and an imploded "son et luminiere" occurs in A Constellation of Baubles.

Life is a Breeze with Mister Azziz French colonization is blown about like a leaf in the wind in a Mauresque setting in Life is a Breeze with Mister Aziz. A Paul Bowles influenced tempest of cultural alienation pits European architecture against a backdrop of the most far-flung outposts of the Roman Empire in Voiubilis.

Life is a Breeze with Mister Azziz Cabin fever on Captain Cook's ship results in Onerous Garland when the anchor is dropped on the tiny island of Lanai. Hawaiian male juveniles performing rites of passage through deer-hunting, lost soul beachcombers on shipwrecked atolls, and interior designers from Atlanta all become supplicants to the rigged and crooked games of a traveling carnie while reading Vincent Bugliosi's "And the Sea Will Tell".

Like Odysseus returning home only to take revenge on his wife's suitors, the exhausted traveler is left with the bittersweet excogiation that everything he needed was in his own backyard.