the experience of holding a jar

chinese vase ©papa osmubal

chinese vase ©papa osmubal

the experience of holding a jar
denis murrell

I’ve held one of these jars before.
They always feel pleasantly comfortable
nestled in the palm of my hand.
I can’t explain why.
Perhaps it’s the perfection of the shape;
the straight sides,
no lumps and bumps.
It could just be
that I appreciate the compactness.
I mean,
it’s only 3 centimeters high
and its diameter can’t be more than 2.5 centimeters.
There aren’t many jars more compact than that.
This is a paint jar.
It contains paint used by model-makers
to add the finishing touches
to their little planes, boats and cars
after they’ve spent extraordinary amounts of time
gluing them together.
The gold plastic screw-cap has the Japanese maker’s name.
There it is, expertly embossed on the top.
Tamiya Plastic Model Co.
The side of the top has a milled edge
to make it easier to unscrew. Touching that milled surface
is quite a contrast for the fingertips
after the experience of the polished lustre of the glass.
Of course, there’s a label.
It displays the company logo;
two white stars, one in a bright red square,
the other on a cobalt blue square.
It reminds me of a flag.
Is it the Panamanian?
Or the Liberian?
The label tells me, in large enough letters,
that this jar contains gold leaf paint.
There are also instructions for use in French,
and Chinese,
as well as Japanese,
printed in such a minutely-sized font
that they can be read only with the aid of a magnifying glass.
Well, that’s to be expected, isn’t it,
when a company tries
to fit instructions in five languages
on such a tiny label.
There’s no sign of a smell
until you remove the screw cap.
Then your nose is immediately assailed
with a highly pungent, but sweetish, odour.
It irritates the sinuses
and you can tell that the vapour must be toxic
and probably inflammable too,
but, for me,
this is not an unpleasant experience.
I have to admit that I enjoy that initial burst of solvent-like fumes
as they assault and excite my nasal cavities.
Inside the jar, there’s a glossy, transparent, honey-gold liquid
and below that,
a lump of metallic gold paste.
These two quite different substances
need to be mixed to the right consistency
to be applied to models,
but I use the paint in quite a different way;
I drain off the amber liquid and mix it with water.
I then use the resulting solution in many of my paintings.
For me, there isn’t any colour
that comes as close
to emulating the agreeably warm glow
of Bath’s eighteenth century buildings
on a sunny, late-summer afternoon
or the incredible radiance
of a vast paddock of dry, yellowed wheat-stubble
during an Australian January as evening closes in.


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