Above, the first two paintings from the Planets Series which I’m working on throughout 2019.
This Sunday there will be an Open Studio day at Abbeyhill to view the paintings, all info here – Open Studio Event
This series of paintings takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology and mythology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets.
All info about inspiration for the series below ..
C.S. Lewis, the planets and the Narnia Chronicles
Until recently, literary critics tended to be slightly dismissive of the Narnia Chronicles. They appear to be a random set of stories, with unruly themes and a vague Christian element that comes to the fore most obviously in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle. Critics were confused about the structure of the stories; Tolkien (a close friend of Lewis) described them as a ‘hodge-podge’! Yet The Narnia Chronicles are among the most enduringly popular children’s stories of all time (over one hundred million have sold since their publication in the early 1950s).
They have broad appeal, not just to children but to adults, also to varying religious groups due to Christian themes (Lewis wrote on theology), and literary academics since Lewis was a scholar and professor of Medieval Classics. The author Michael Ward, one of the world’s leading experts on C.S. Lewis, was completely familiar with Lewis’s work and was the first person (publicly at least) to recognise that the books were inspired by the seven planets.
This wasn’t obvious to the average reader (or any reader) since C.S. Lewis deliberately obscured the idea of planets in the books – there is very little mention of planets, sun or moon other than the usual descriptions of light, time of day or night and so on. It took someone dedicated to Lewis’s work to recognise the particular mythologies and qualities of each planet, and to see that each of the books was written ‘under the influence’ of the planets.
C.S. Lewis wasn’t being secretive simply to amuse himself, this was more a reflection of his philosophy – he believed that objectivity, or pure reason, stultified imagination and therefore the emotional (or spiritual) influence and atmosphere of a story. He wanted readers to experience the effect of each planet, rather than understand the stories as allegories, or a series of symbols to be recognised by an educated few. As Michael Ward writes in Planet Narnia, the distinctive atmosphere in Lewis’s fiction was a deliberate and important element of his approach to story-telling.
Each of the seven books of the Narniad correspond to the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology…
Jupiter (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) Mars (Prince Caspian), Sun (Voyage of the Dawn Treader), Venus (The Magician’s Nephew), Mercury (The Horse and his Boy), Moon (The Silver Chair) and Saturn (The Last Battle).
About the planets series of paintings …
‘Planets Series. Saturn’ …
Then Aslan said, ‘Now make an end.’
The giant threw his horn into the sea. Then he stretched out one arm – very black it looked, and thousands of miles long – across the sky till his hand reached the Sun. He took the Sun and squeezed it in his hand as you would squeeze an orange. And instantly there was total darkness.
C.S. Lewis The Last Battle
Saturn is the planet of endings, death, law, structure, order, liberation or learning following sacrifice, and time (the myth goes that Father Time will be the last person on earth at the end, who will extinguish the sun).
Saturn’s influence was understood in Medieval cosmology as dark, powerful and oppressive – it was perceived as the ultimate teacher through challenges or difficult experience. Its associations were Winter, the winter equinox, the darkest months of the year – December and January, the constellations Capricorn (goat) and Aquarius (water bearer). Its element is earth, its day, Saturday. Colours – black, dark and earthy colours. Associated animals include crows, ravens, owls…
Festivals, rituals and feasts have traditionally been held at the winter equinox since ancient times. Christmas adopts the date and corresponds to the themes of death and rebirth associated with Saturn.
‘Planets Series. Jupiter’…
Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away all together. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down on to the forest floor and overhead you could see the blue sky through the treetops.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
In one of Lewis’s ‘Planets’ poems from the 1940’s, he describes the influence of Jupiter as Winter passed, Guilt Forgiven.
Jupiter represents the overcoming of Saturn and long winter. Not quite the arrival of spring (associated with Mars) but around February and March the days become noticeably longer and we see the first snowdrops.
Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius and Pisces was seen as the ruler of all the planets. Jove (Roman title) was the name of the ruler of Jupiter, which also relates to Zeus (Greek title) and Thor (Norse), god of thunder, storm and the north wind.
Subjects associated with Jupiter were higher learning, theology, the cosmos and the sea. Qualities – joviality (optimism, laughter), honesty, monarchy or kingship. Colours – azure blue, sea green, purple. Animals – horses, dolphins and various others including the mythical centaur. Plants – wood anenome, celandines (among many others). Trees – Oak mainly (associated with Thor, also associated with Jupiter). Day – Thursday.
Also … Wardrobes! These were items of furniture which held robes worn by nobles of the court – ‘Ward Robes’ – associated with monarchy and therefore Jupiter.
(References: Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia (2008) , and the Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535))
If you have any questions about the paintings email firstname.lastname@example.org