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Emerge blinking into the sunlight and head east along the freeway from Neath, (choosing, if you will, to make the worthwhile detour to Polopolis en route) and eventually you will come to Canvas.

To the casual tourist upon first arrival, Canvas may seem much like any other pleasantly picturesque resort town. It is only after one has been there for a few hours that certain things begin to strike one as perhaps - artificial?

Take the woman sitting there at the café. She looks sophisticated, Parisian. You imagine she is perhaps waiting to have lunch with a friend, or simply watching the world go by, seeing, and being seen.

Yes, that’s it, being seen. You start to notice more. You realise that the curved crown of her hat echoes exactly the curve of the arch above her head. The green of the creeper to her right contrasts pleasingly with the auburn of her sleek, glossy hair. The dog lying at her feet, sprawled in a seemingly careless attitude (providing a counterpoint to the woman‘s poised elegance), is actually positioned precisely to give balance to the composition of the little tableau as it is viewed by the casual observer. She is uninterrupted by the ministrations of waiters, this woman - they are too afraid of disturbing the delicate equilibrium of the montage.

And that’s another thing. If you turn to look at an enticing tableau as it catches your eye, almost automatically you find yourself standing at the optimum position for viewing it. Step just a little to the left, or the right, and you will find that the sun gets in your eyes, or you are standing on a wobbly paving slab, or your view is obscured by a tree, In Canvas, everything conspires to be visually pleasing.

There is no such thing, in Canvas, as a window being accidentally left open for its curtain to blow in the gentle breeze. If a piece of plaster is missing from a wall, it will be missing in precisely the most aesthetically pleasing position. It is impossible to walk on the beach at Canvas without coming across barefoot dancers on the sand, or appealing small children fishing in rock pools with their skirts tucked into their knickers. And it is always early morning or late afternoon in Canvas - the time when the light casts the most interesting shadows, lending contrast and definition to the crags of the mountains soaring majestically above the town.

You might have thought that the worst risk faced by the tourist in Canvas is to accidentally wander into the Abstract Quarter, or worse still, the Surrealist Enclave (which can really mess with your head - although some of the more Dali-esque areas can prove remarkably comfortable for a nap). But there are infinitely worse hazards to consider.

Every year, thousands of hopeful young artists flock to Canvas in search of inspiration. The lucky ones leave a few months later, heads hanging in disappointment and shame. The unlucky ones stay, having failed to understand the truth about Canvas. For, appealing as the town is, there is nothing here that is original, nothing that truly stirs the emotions, nothing that is not calculated and superficial. And if you stay here you will find that after a while a kind of lassitude sets in. Nothing seems important - no love, no sorrow, no joy, no anger. The only thing that matters is appearance, and - all too soon - you find yourself becoming the woman at the café, eternally poised over her café au lait.