Today’s small paintings, of Sun and Saturn 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).
I’ve already posted a lot about the associations and mythology of Saturn during winter when I tackled a larger version, so I won’t write much about that here. This smaller Saturn was a lot easier as it’s so much more easy to experiment on this smaller scale before I tackle the big paintings later this year.
The Sun corresponds to C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn treader, which has possibly the most vivid, beautiful and mystical imagery of the entire series. It’s also hilariously funny, also moving, thanks to the character of Eustace Scrubb, who’s introduced in this book for the first time.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is mostly about Eustace when it comes to profound character development in the story – his metamorphosis into dragon, then back to human with Aslan’s intervention, being the pivotal part of his character development.
It’s the final scenes though that are the most mind-meltingly beautiful and strange; white lilies stretching to the horizon on a deep green sea that becomes sweet and drinkable, ‘like drinkable light’, so that the characters are able to experience more light . You just have to stop reading the story at that point, to drink in, appreciate and experience the imagery.
It’s classic Lewis – layers of imagery, literary reference and spiritual connotations.
This is the ‘Sun’ excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s poem ‘The Planets’
The heaven’s highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv’n thunder
Of SOL’s chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle’s eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o’er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos’d garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth’s matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp’d male,
The earth’s husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye might refer to the Alchemist’s dream of turning ordinary matter to gold (the sun’s associated metal) and this is referred to in the story when the characters arrive on an uninhabited island where they encounter a pool that turns everything that’s immersed in it to gold.
King Caspian and Edmund are affected by this. Imagining the unlimited wealth and power such a pool might bring, they argue about which of them has the highest status in order to own the island and its magic pool – Lucy brings them up short with a rebuke, then Aslan appears on the hill beyond the pool, appearing gold as if it lit by the sun, though the day is overcast. They come to their senses and decide to name the island ‘Death Water’.
Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia explores the most extensive and fascinating associations with the sun in the story and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think his chapter on Sol is extraordinarily rich and profound in its interpretation, also in its myriad, meaningful associations – truly illuminating.
Put in my simple terms, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is about light and spiritual illumination gained through the challenge of truth. I don’t think my small painting anywhere near does justice to it really, but it’s good practice for the larger work later this year!