Written by Varrick Kwang
Art by Alexandros Chatzidimos

Two years ago, when I was still actively serving in the military, my unit was sent overseas to Italy for training.

That day, my unit was granted a rare night-out so I strolled around the village that was within the 

The rest of my platoon opted to go to the local bars. I, however, was never the type of person who fancied alcohol, besides, all beer tastes the same to me, no matter how exquisite they are made to sound.

While everyone else got drunk at the various city bars, I  decided to take a walk to see the country instead.

It was a suburban area, most families in this village lived in big three-floor houses with nice cars parked on their driveway along with a well-curated, flower-filled bush. 

As I walked on the cobblestone pavement, I imagined how busy (or not) the roads would be in the day, given a town so laid back. 

Have those pretty cottages lined up neatly in a street and you’ll have a beautiful looking suburban small town. The perfect place to have laid back people to relax and enjoy life…and build an army camp nearby. Didn’t know there was such a village in Italy. 

This is a mere fantasy for me compared to back home where we get cramped into small unit situated apartment blocks with hundreds of tenants. 

A three meter marble statue of a man stood in the middle of the town square on top of a beautifully sculpted marble fountain.How was it that whoever made this was able to make marble look…tender?

I wondered what kind of talent, commitment, and hard work an artist has to have.

The plaque read:

“Von Kerris. Artist of Town Herri, born in the Renaissance era, 16th Century. Despite his lifelong devotion to art, science, astrology, and sculpting, he was never given recognition beyond this small town. He has travelled to gain an apprenticeship with Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Donatello. However, he has never met any of the greats. He ultimately became one of the last victims of the black plague. This statue was erected eight years after his death by the townsfolk to remember him, to honour his contribution to the era.”

The statue portrayed him as  stick-thin, unlike the muscular portrayals of typical Greek and European style statues. Holding a telescope in his left hand and a sculptor’s tool in his right; his pupiless marble eyes gazing into the starry sky as he was said to have done while he was still alive. 

I then noticed a gallery of paintings held up by display easels surrounding the statue, almost like this fountain was a shrine for their shining artist. 

Well, until I read the artist statements attached to the pictures. 

Turns out, the paintings shown there weren’t the original ones painted by this particular artist. They were re-created and reframed throughout the years, over and over again.

Even if this artist never rose to any prominence, he must have produced amazing artwork in his lifetime, enough for an entire town to remember him and preserve them.

I cannot help but start snapping away on my phone. 

Artists of the Renaissance era were simply made different. Such depth, such detail, such magnificence. 

Clearly, even the unknowns were utterly devoted to their craft. I wonder how many more such artists there were in that era, overshadowed by the likes of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. 

Who didn’t even have a small town to commemorate their contribution to the golden era of art. How many artists spend their lives creating art for the world only to be forgotten?

I wonder what it is like to be able to produce art with such literary, visual, and intellectual depth behind it that it can spark debates, analyses, and raving admiration for hundreds of years.

Just what were they blessed with? Why is it that some people are blessed with such talent and disposition and others are not? Who determines this?

But I am a mere soldier, what do I know about art and human destiny? 

At the end of my little walk I was left with a phone gallery full of photos of houses I can never own back home, and a mind filled with wonder.

What did I yearn for? Up to today, I do not want to explore those feelings. Is it the big, spacious yet affordable landed houses? The community spirit and the human touch of a small town? Wishing my own culture and country can have our own arts scene comparable to the Renaissance?