Monthly Archives: May 2019

Moon

‘Moon. Planets Series’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood. Rose Strang 2019

Today’s small painting of the Moon in preparation for the larger Planets Series.

I’m creating Planets series paintings for two exhibitions this year – a smaller series of studies for a June exhibition at my studio in Abbey hill, in preparation for an exhibition and talk to take place in Autumn this year.

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

Info about June exhibition Here

(I’ll post more about the September exhibition and talk soon, once some more details are confirmed).

These small paintings are proving an excellent way to explore ideas on an easier scale before tackling the large paintings for the Planets Series. I think my Moon-influenced painting (above) is suitably amorphous, watery and undefined, though I’d want to add more of the moon’s moonliness to the larger painting.

Yesterday I posted the Mercury part of C.S. Lewis’s wonderful poem ‘The Planets’, so here’s the moon excerpt from his poem …

Lady LUNA, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us–the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count’nance
Orb’d and ageless. In earth’s bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
–Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth.

The Moon corresponds to The Silver Chair in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. Its Moon-like or Lunar qualities as imagined by C.S. Lewis and explained by Michael Ward are to do with enchantment, wandering lost, changeability, melancholy, moodiness or lunacy, also the metal silver.

I’ve heard, in person, from police, and hospital staff in A+E that people do indeed act out stranger and more impulsive behaviours on a full moon. The moon affects the tides of the sea of course, and therefore must have an effect on anything that contains water, including ourselves. And of course the moon is associated with women and menstruation since the moon’s cycles loosely correspond to that, and the sight of the moon swelling up then disappearing each month reminds us of pregnancy. And so it’s very much seen as a female influence across all cultures; Lady Luna.

Gazing at the moon is pretty wondrous when out in the countryside unpolluted by city lights, but I think the most entrancing moon-view I ever had was when I arrived in Venice for the first time back in 2001. I was there for the Venice Bienalle with Richard Demarco and company and we arrived at night, then entered Canal Grando in a water boat. It was an enormous silvery full moon, the sky was velvety black and also slightly misty. The domes, Byzantine palaces and waterways of Venice looked enchantingly beautiful. Unreal. It was so utterly stunning that my heart was actually palpitating rapidly!

La Serenissima as Venice is called – an appropriate and feminine title, inspired by its many hundreds of years in the past, enjoying peaceful trade between all nations.

Farmers have planted or harvested crops according to moon cycles since pre-history, with the idea being that a waxing (growing) moon draws water into things, and a waning one takes water away. Not being a farmer or even gardener, beyond caring for the odd pot plant, I can’t attest to that and I assume that thousands of generations of farmers and planters can’t be wrong.

So the moon has a clear influence on our world. To the Medievalists, the Moon distorted the influence of the other planets and the divine realm of God, and anything beneath the moon was termed sub-lunar.

Lewis’s The Silver Chair launches immediately into moon-influenced territory of wetness and melancholy; Jill Pole has been bullied at school and is crying on a dreich, overcast Autumn day, then Eustace enters (transformed by his experience on the Dawn Treader when he was de-dragonified by Aslan, personifying the Sun’s light). Eustace offers a possible way out to the land of Narnia.

They escape, not to Narnia as yet, but to a land above the moon’s sub-lunar influence – a peaceful mountain-top forest glade filled with birds of paradise. Eustace falls off a cliff into the clouds below during an argument with Jill, who is subsequently wracked with guilt, also thirst, but the only stream is guarded by an enormous lion (Aslan of course). She plucks up courage to drink and is challenged by Aslan to be truthful about why Eustace fell off the cliff. She admits it was because she was showing off her lack of fear of heights (or depths).

Aslan explains that due to her mistakes, their task will be more difficult. They must find King Rillan who has been enchanted and lost for many years. He warns Jill that thoughts will become vague in the land below, he then transports her down to Narnia where she encounters Eustace. They then embark on their adventure with the wonderful Puddleglum – a somewhat pessimistic creature called a Marshwiggle who lives in the wet marshes of Narnia.

Together they all journey across the far north of Narnia in winter. They become lost – forgetting the signs and instructions given by Aslan, but end up in a deep underground world where they travel across the subterranean seas, and eventually encounter King Rillian, who has been enchanted by ‘the Lady of the Green Kirtle’, and the silver chair to which he’s bound each evening to keep him imprisoned while he remembers the truth. One of the signs given by Aslan is that they must pay attention to anyone who speaks in the name of Aslan, and while King Rillian raves and shouts in the chair, apparently mad, they find him frightening but when he asks them to free him in the name of Aslan they realise they have to obey the sign.

Releasing him from the spell entails waking up from dreaming to awareness. They have by this time been enchanted to believe that the world above the subterranean caverns doesn’t exist. It’s Puddleglum who cuts through the enchantment and remembers that there is a real sun and moon, and lion called Aslan. Eventually they emerge from the subterranean world into Narnia again, where King Rillian is restored to the throne.

The first thing they see when they emerge from the underworld  though, is the creatures of Narnia dancing a complex dance at night, that relies on everyone interacting closely, and with awareness, for it to work as a dance.

I’d recognised the echoes of Plato, and the myth of Hades in the story, before reading Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia, but the understanding of planetary influence on the Narniad as discovered by Michael Ward gives an entirely different dimension. These stories are infinitely richer and more profoundly inspiring when understood from this new perspective. I’m currently re-reading The Magician’s Nephew for example, and I’m amazed by the complexity and depth of ideas when it’s understood as Venus-influenced.

What I take from The Silver Chair at the end, is the notion of the riches that we can discover when we delve deep into the darkness of our difficult emotions, our memories, mind, subconscious or experience of life – uncovering a deeper truth from below the layers of obscurity – real, living jewels of Bism. The Moon is a less harsh teacher than authoritarian Saturn – but you have to voluntarily delve deep to acquire wisdom. The last paragraph of The Silver Chair …

The opening in the hillside was left open, and often in hot summer days the Narnians go in there with ships and lanterns and down to the water and sail to and fro, singing, on the cool, dark underground sea, telling each other stories of the cities that lie fathoms deep below. If ever you have the luck to go to Narnia yourself, do not forget to have a look at those caves.

Mercury

‘Mercury. Planets Series’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood. Rose Strang 2019

Today’s small painting of Mercury in preparation for the larger Planets Series.

I’m creating Planets series paintings for two exhibitions this year – a smaller series of studies for a June exhibition at my studio in Abbey hill, in preparation for an exhibition and talk to take place in Autumn this year.

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

Info about June exhibition Here

(I’ll post more about the September exhibition and talk soon, once some more details are confirmed).

Mercury corresponds to The Horse and his Boy in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles – a book that grew on me more and more each time I read it. Its Mercurial qualities, as imagined by C.S. Lewis and explained by Michael Ward are to do with messengers, communication, speed and twins among many other things, reflecting the God Mercury (also known as Hermes) the winged messenger, the fact that Mercury rules the constellation sign of Gemini (the twins) and of course the quicksilver nature of mercury itself as a metal.

I haven’t yet posted C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Planets’ poem, which was remiss of me since it was reading this poem which led Michael Ward to the discovery that each of the Narnia Chronicles corresponds to the Medieval planets.

It’s a beautiful poem, but for today, I’ll just post the part of the poem that corresponds to Mercury …

Next beyond her
MERCURY marches;–madcap rover,
Patron of pilf’rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul’s darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them–gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit’s tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought.

It’s difficult to say why I enjoy the Horse and his Boy so much out of the series, it’s richly imagined, as always, with atmospheric contrast between the lush decadence of Tashban, the brutally hot desert and the cool green woodlands and hills of Archenland. Descriptively it’s testimony yet again to Lewis’s genius for relating atmosphere, but I think the characters are equally compelling, possibly because of the journey and character development they experience.

The two main characters, Shasta and Aravis, both undergo a change in consciousness – Shasta experiences acceptance for the first time in his life since being abandoned as an infant. Aravis also experiences acceptance, and learns compassion and consideration for others, having been treated if anything even more cruelly than Shasta.

In the book, Aravis tells her story (in a style the horse Bree describes as ‘high Calormen’ , stylistically the equivalent of the Arabian Nights). She describes how, after her mother died, her father re-married and arranged to have Aravis married off to a man decades older, who she has never met, although she’s only 12 years old.

Aravis decides that suicide is the only route to escape, and sets herself to this grim task in a forest clearing, but  her mare, Hwin (a talking horse from Narnia who’s been captured in slavery) intervenes and pleads with Aravis to live and attempt escape to Narnia.

Harrowing stuff for a ‘children’s story’, but as always Lewis deals with these more brutal realities using a distanced or lighter touch; in this case ‘High Calormen style’, yet it’s still one of the most moving passages in the Narnia Chronicles. And it demonstrates several Mercurial qualities:

Commerce – com-merce. Merchants. The idea of Mercury  the messenger- trading and exchange. Aravis is being sold by her own family. Shasta’s adoptive father also tries to sell him to a rich merchant.

Communication – verbosity, writing, speech. Aravis has a fine, articulate grasp of language thanks to a privileged, though cruel, up-bringing.

Shasta then becomes an involuntary messenger who has to deliver important news with haste – he discovers that Archenland, ruled by King Lune, and then the castle of Cair Paravel in Narnia will be attacked by Calormen.

Shasta, Aravis, and the horses Bree and Hwin must speed across the desert from Tashban to Archenland to warn King Lune before they’re attacked, and in the final rush to warn the king, Shasta has to run across land for miles to deliver the message before it’s too late. All very Mercurial! Lastly, he discovers that he is in fact the twin of King Lune’s son – bringing in the Mercury and Geminian theme of twins.

When painting my view of a castle under the influence of Mercury, I tried to get the sense of quicksilver through paint dripping and merging representing the sea that surrounds the castle at high tide – Same but sundered – the idea of twos in birds flying above the castle (winged messengers), and two very small boats which might meet in the waterways. The last idea was a reference to words and communication (a bit clunky maybe as a reference!) in the fine blue lines drawn horizontally suggesting writing paper. Mercury is a bright star, and represents bright ideas too, so I gave the castle a halo of light, which doesn’t show up quite so well in the photo (at the top of this post). I think it works quite well as an image.

And here’s a quick sketch I did earlier ..

‘Mercury, sketch’. Mixed media on paper. Rose Strang 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow I’ll post my Moon painting, which still needs a bit of work…

Sanna Bay – Paintings and Video

Paintings on exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan

I mentioned a while ago that my friend, musician Donald Ferguson, might compose a piece for guitar to accompany my recent paintings of Sanna Bay in Ardnamurchan, and here it is! (links to paintings below video) …

The atmosphere and mood Donald creates here is entrancing – from the impetus of traveling through beautiful scenery from Glencoe to the Ardnamurchan peninsula, to the peace of arriving at Sanna Bay on the farthest west coast of Scotland.

Here are the links to the two galleries exhibiting these new works – you can contact them there with any queries …

Resipole Gallery: https://www.resipolestudios.co.uk/rose-strang

Morningside Gallery – http://www.morningsidegallery.co.uk/4_artists/strang/index.htm

Morningside Gallery, new paintings

‘Sanna Bay,afternoon’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

Lovely to see the newly framed paintings of my March series featuring Ardnamurchan and Sanna Bay now on exhibition at the Morningside Gallery.

You can view them and contact the gallery with any queries on this link … http://www.morningsidegallery.co.uk/4_artists/strang/index.htm

Continue reading

Resipole, Ardnamurchan

The exhibition launch at the Resipole Gallery was fun and convivial, and Ardnamurchan was beautiful as always. (above – ‘Sanna Bay, Seaweed’, below, photos from the Resipole) ..

 

 

 

 

The exhibition continues until 28th June. All artworks on this link, also contacts for the gallery if you have any queries about the paintings: https://www.resipolestudios.co.uk/rose-strang

I went up there with a few friends and we stayed on the beach at Ardtoe in the Ardnamurchan peninsula – midgy but lovely.

Some photos –  in the afternoon, sunset then dawn…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuing the castles and mythology theme for the Planets Series, we visited Castle Tioram which, though very overcast, looked mythical as ever, more so perhaps. Bad weather suits the west coast and highlands! These luscious pink rhododendrons are everywhere in May and June on the West Coast …

 

 

 

We sheltered in my favourite hotel – the Glenfinnan Hotel at Loch Sheil…

 

 

 

And lastly, some photos taken while we drove through Glencoe – it looks iconically Glencoe-esque in this weather …

 

 

 

Exhibition at the Resipole Gallery

‘Sanna Bay. Turquoise’. Mixed media on 20×16″ wood board. Rose Strang 2019

I’m excited to be exhibiting as part of a group show at the excellent Resipole Gallery this month.

The exhibition launches next week on Friday 17th May (there’s a private view from 6 to 8pm)

As the Resipole Gallery is in Ardnamurchan on the west coast of Scotland it’s a bit remote for some folks! So here is a link to their website page showing my paintings – https://www.resipolestudios.co.uk/rose-strang

And this is their contact page if you have any sales queries – https://www.resipolestudios.co.uk/contacts

I love the Ardnamurchan landscape so I’ll be traveling up there with some friends for the exhibition launch, also for more photos and sketches of the beautiful Castle Tioram which is featuring in my ‘Planets Series’. Here are a couple of photos from my last trip there ..

 

Planet studies and castles

‘Venus’. Mixed media on 10×102 wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

‘Mars’. Mixed media on 10×102 wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

I’m creating a series of smaller studies for the Planets Series. Above – ‘Mars’ and ‘Venus’. More about the series below …

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

As mentioned in previous posts, C.S. Lewis didn’t make this explicit at all – which was in keeping with his belief that faith was understood through imagination; each of the books was inspired by the qualities associated with each planet, for example Mars – war-like, and related to early spring, associated with the metal iron and the colour red, or Venus – concerning love, new life and pleasure, associated with the metal copper and the colour green.

Without a fairly in-depth look at the mythology of planets as understood in Medieval times, it’s difficult to grasp the extent to which Lewis used not just his imagination to construct the stories according to planetary influence, but also his breadth and depth of knowledge on Medieval literature.

Reading Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia is an excellent place to start exploring these themes, and from there I’ve began to explore many related themes in literature and art.

I’m now exploring so many tangents it would take to long too write about them all, but the linking theme between all the paintings will be Castle Tioram, which on its rocky outcrop surrounded by sea and wild forest reminds me of Cair Paravel in the Narniad.

Another related interest is the symbology of castles in Medieval literature and spirituality, which has been fascinating. Historians tend to write about castles from a military historical perspective, but to the Medieval mind they represented more than military defense – they could also be symbolic of the defense of spiritual, social or political ideals.

In a previous post I wrote about the ancient history of Castle Tioram’s ‘golden age’ (you can read about that Here). So for today’s small studies for the planets series I was playing around with stylised visual representations of a castle under the influence of Mars (under attack, a slightly ominous air and branches to be thrashed through!) and Venus – I was thinking of the garden of the Hesperides, the Venusian colours of green and white and an altogether gentler atmosphere inviting pleasure and relaxation (the photo isn’t capturing the colours and shimmery qualities I managed to paint, as the light was fading).

I’m happier with Venus than the Mars painting, but the ideas are getting there. I’m also generally more happy with Venus! On the subject of Medieval ideas, astrologically I have my Venus and Moon in Libra, which is a nice venusian influence. Who knows if these things affect our life?! Venus influences creativity, according to Medievalists.

I remember a happy evening attending a perfume, poetry and music evening (organised by a friend – poet Jennifer. L. Williams) held in a Victorian glass house at Edinburgh’s Botanic gardens – it was a perfect summer day, with the scent of fresh lily and orange blossom merging with the ferny earthy aroma of greenhouse and floating up into the green palm fronds, while we listened to a poetry reading about spring and first love, accompanied by music on cello by another friend, Atzi Muramatsu. All very Venusian …

I’ll leave you with some photos from the event, below – (if only I could capture perfume in paintings!) …