At the launch of The Planets. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, I briefly met a woman called Devo Cutler-Rubenstein who’d traveled all the way from the US, not just to attend the exhibition and talk but to reconnect with Richard Demarco, Terry Newman and various others who’d all taken part in the legendary Edinburgh Arts journeys.
Edinburgh Arts involved a creative exploration of landscape, culture and history, they included people from all walks of life and fields of experience as well as creative writers, artists, musicians etc. (this link to Demarco Archive history introduces some of the experiences from the time Demarco Archives History ).
Devo kindly shared some of her photos from the Planets exhibition and event which I’ve included below. We exchanged a few emails from which I learned about her fascinating work over the years as a writer and producer. A member of the Writers’ Guild of America, Devo has written and/or produced film and television projects for ABC, Columbia Pictures, FX, Showtime, MGM, Live Entertainment, Fries Entertainment, Interscope Entertainment, and many others.
She’s also co-written a book which acts as an in-depth guide for actors exploring their characters, which you can read about here – Dating your Character
I include a selection of photos from the exhibition launch below, which I think echo Devo’s curiosity and interest in people – she has a great way of capturing the mood of an event and responses of people.
Warm thanks to Devo for traveling to the event, and for generously sharing these great photos!
‘Stormy Sky. Ardban’. Mixed media on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019
‘Sea Pools. Ardban’. Mixed media on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019
‘Morning. Ardban’. Mixed media on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019
The three paintings above complete the series for an upcoming exhibition at Limetree An Ealhain Gallery, in Fortwilliam, opening on the 18th October.
The full series can be viewed Here. If you’d like to reserve a painting, please contact the Limetree Gallery Fortwilliam at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been fighting off a cold as well as painting all week so I’m too puggled (old Scots word for tired) to write more today, but here are two more videos (by Adam Brewster, thanks Adam!) of painting on the beautiful beach of Ardban (one showing that it can be sunny, the other showing that sometimes you can dispense with brushes). Thanks again to Donald Ferguson for arranging this amazing holiday – I look forward to going back there again!
‘Twilit Sea. Ardban’. Mixed media on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019
‘Early Evening. Ardban’. Mixed media on 31×22″ paper. Rose Strang 2019
Today’s finished paintings for my upcoming exhibition at Limetree Lime Tree An Ealhain Gallery, in Fortwilliam, which opens this year on the 18th October.
You can view all the paintings so far Here (there will be ten in total). If you’re interested in reserving any of these paintings, please contact Limetree Fortwilliam at email@example.com
Most of these paintings were painted in situ on the amazing peninsula of Ardban near Applecross on the west coast of Scotland. I’m finishing the rest in the studio which is less idyllic but more practical at least – here’s a video showing the wild conditions! …
On the right is a photo of (from left) Dr Charles Stephens, Atzi Muramatsu, Adam Brewster and me, after our event on Saturday yesterday in association with the exhibition ‘The Planets. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis’ for which Adam, Charles and Atzi responded to C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle with an animation, a reading and a cello performance. (Links below).
Saturday is of course associated with Saturn, and the corresponding book in the Narniad, influenced by Saturn, is The Last Battle.
Here are the performances (thanks to Adam Brewster for videos) …
Animation by Adam Brewster (BAFTA nominated for best animation in 2010) in response to themes of the exhibition (2 minutes):
Cello performance by Atzi Muramatsu (who won a BAFTA for best new composer in 2016) in response to ‘The Last Battle’: (10 minutes, starts 0:20)
Dr. Charles Stephens reads ‘Night Falls on Narnia’ – an excerpt from ‘The Last Battle’, by C.S. Lewis.
The exhibition ended today and the launch last Thursday was a great success thanks to Dr Michael Ward’s fascinating talk about the Medieval cosmos and its influence on C.S. Lewis, explored in his book Planet Narnia.
As ‘The Last Battle’ describes the end of Narnia, it is a moving and at times ominous book – the seventh in the series. After the animation, reading and music performance yesterday, I asked viewers to contemplate the numbers seven and eight – eight being the symbol of infinity. I’d also been thinking of the following beautiful poem by C.S. Lewis: What the Bird Said Early in the Year
Warm thanks again to Michael Ward, Adam Brewster, Atzi Muramatsu, Dr Charles Stephens, who so movingly read the excerpt – ‘Night Falls on Narnia’ – from ‘The Last Battle’. (excerpt below) … Also Richard Demarco and Terry Anne Newman for hosting the events at the Demarco Galleries, and lastly thanks again to Fernanda Zei for her excellent curation of the exhibition and talk.
Here’s hoping we can develop the exhibition and related performances for a future exhibition and event!
Night Falls on Narnia, from The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis
They all stood beside Aslan, on his right side, and looked through the open doorway.
The bonfire had gone out. On the earth all was blackness: in fact you could not have told that you were looking into a wood, if you had not seen where the dark shapes of the trees ended and the stars began. But when Aslan had roared yet again, out on their left they saw another black shape. That is, they saw another patch where there were no stars: and the patch rose up higher and higher and became the shape of a man, the hugest of all giants. They all knew Narnia well enough to work out where he must be standing. He must be on the high moorlands that stretch away to the North beyond the River Shribble. Then Jill and Eustace remembered how once long ago, in the deep caves beneath those moors, they had seen a great giant asleep and been told that his name was Father Time, and that he would wake on the day the world ended.
“Yes,” said Aslan, though they had not spoken. “While he lay dreaming his name was Time. Now that he is awake he will have a new one.”
Then the great giant raised a horn to his mouth. They could see this by the change of the black shape he made against the stars. After that—quite a bit later, because sound travels so slowly—they heard the sound of the horn: high and terrible, yet of a strange, deadly beauty.
Immediately the sky became full of shooting stars. Even one shooting star is a fine thing to see; but these were dozens, and then scores, and then hundreds, till it was like silver rain: and it went on and on. And when it had gone on for some while, one or two of them began to think that there was another dark shape against the sky as well as the giant’s. It was in a different place, right overhead, up in the very roof of the sky as you might call it. “Perhaps it is a cloud,” thought Edmund. At any rate, there were no stars there: just blackness. But all around, the downpour of stars went on. And then the starless patch began to grow, spreading further and further out from the centre of the sky. And presently a quarter of the whole sky was black, and then a half, and at last the rain of shooting stars was going on only low down near the horizon.
With a thrill of wonder (and there was some terror in it too) they all suddenly realized what was happening. The spreading blackness was not a cloud at all: it was simply emptiness. The black part of the sky was the part in which there were no stars left. All the stars were falling: Aslan had called them home.
The last few seconds before the rain of stars had quite ended were very exciting. Stars began falling all round them. But stars in that world are not the great flaming globes they are in ours. They are people (Edmund and Lucy had once met one). So now they found showers of glittering people, all with long hair like burning silver and spears like white-hot metal, rushing down to them out of the black air, swifter than falling stones. They made a hissing noise as they landed and burnt the grass. And all these stars glided past them and stood somewhere behind, a little to the right.
This was a great advantage, because otherwise, now that there were no stars in the sky, everything would have been completely dark and you could have seen nothing. As it was, the crowd of stars behind them cast a fierce, white light over their shoulders. They could see mile upon mile of Narnian woods spread out before them, looking as if they were flood-lit. Every bush and almost every blade of grass had its black shadow behind it. The edge of every leaf stood out so sharp that you’d think you could cut your finger on it.
On the grass before them lay their own shadows. But the great thing was Aslan’s shadow. It streamed away to their left, enormous and very terrible. And all this was under a sky that would now be starless for ever.
The light from behind them (and a little to their right) was so strong that it lit up even the slopes of the Northern Moors. Something was moving there. Enormous animals were crawling and sliding down into Narnia: great dragons and giant lizards and featherless birds with wings like bat’s wings. They disappeared into the woods and for a few minutes there was silence. Then there came—at first from very far off—sounds of wailing and then, from every direction, a rustling and a pattering and a sound of wings. It came nearer and nearer. Soon one could distinguish the scamper of little feet from the padding of big paws, and the clack-clack of light little hoofs from the thunder of great ones. And then one could see thousands of pairs of eyes gleaming. And at last, out of the shadow of the trees, racing up the hill for dear life, by thousands and by millions, came all kinds of creatures—Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, Satyrs, Fauns, Giants, Calormenes, men from Archenland, Monopods, and strange unearthly things from the remote islands or the unknown Western lands. And all these ran up to the doorway where Aslan stood.
This part of the adventure was the only one which seemed rather like a dream at the time and rather hard to remember properly afterwards. Especially, one couldn’t say how long it had taken. Sometimes it seemed to have lasted only a few minutes, but at others it felt as if it might have gone on for years. Obviously, unless either the Door had grown very much larger or the creatures had suddenly grown as small as gnats, a crowd like that couldn’t ever have tried to get through it. But no one thought about that sort of thing at the time.
The creatures came rushing on, their eyes brighter and brighter as they drew nearer and nearer to the standing Stars. But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly—it was fear and hatred: except that, on the faces of Talking Beasts, the fear and hatred lasted only for a fraction of a second. You could see that they suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts. They were just ordinary animals. And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow, which (as you have heard) streamed away to the left of the doorway. The children never saw them again. I don’t know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right. There were some queer specimens among them. Eustace even recognised one of those very Dwarfs who had helped to shoot the Horses. But he had no time to wonder about that sort of thing (and anyway it was no business of his) for a great joy put everything else out of his head. Among the happy creatures who now came crowding round Tirian and his friends were all those whom they had thought dead. There was Roonwit the Centaur and Jewel the Unicorn, and the good Boar and the good Bear and Farsight the Eagle, and the dear Dogs and the Horses, and Poggin the Dwarf.
“Further in and higher up!” cried Roonwit and thundered away in a gallop to the West. And though they did not understand him, the words somehow set them tingling all over. The Boar grunted at them cheerfully. The Bear was just going to mutter that he still didn’t understand, when he caught sight of the fruit trees behind them. He waddled to those trees as fast as he could and there, no doubt, found something he understood very well. But the Dogs remained, wagging their tails and Poggin remained, shaking hands with everyone and grinning all over his honest face. And Jewel leaned his snowy white head over the King’s shoulder and the King whispered in Jewel’s ear. Then everyone turned his attention again to what could be seen through the Doorway.
The Dragons and Giant Lizards now had Narnia to themselves. They went to and fro tearing up the trees by the roots and crunching them up as if they were sticks of rhubarb. Minute by minute the forests disappeared. The whole country became bare and you could see all sorts of things about its shape—all the little humps and hollows—which you had never noticed before. The grass died. Soon Tirian found that he was looking at a world of bare rock and earth. You could hardly believe that anything had ever lived there. The monsters themselves grew old and lay down and died. Their flesh shrivelled up and the bones appeared: soon they were only huge skeletons that lay here and there on the dead rock, looking as if they had died thousands of years ago. For a long time everything was still.
At last something white—long, level line of whiteness that gleamed in the light of the standing stars—came moving towards them from the eastern end of the world. A widespread noise broke the silence: first a murmur, then a rumble, then a roar. And now they could see what it was that was coming, and how fast it came. It was a foaming wall of water. The sea was rising. In that treeless world you could see it very well. You could see all the rivers getting wider and the lakes getting larger, and separate lakes joining into one, and valleys turning into new lakes, and hills turning into islands, and then those islands vanishing. And the high moors to their left and the higher mountains to their right crumbled and slipped down with a roar and a splash into the mounting water; and the water came swirling up to the very threshold of the Doorway (but never passed it) so that the foam splashed about Aslan’s forefeet. All now was level water from where they stood to where the water met the sky.
And out there it began to grow light. A streak of dreary and disastrous dawn spread along the horizon, and widened and grew brighter, till in the end they hardly noticed the light of the stars who stood behind them. At last the sun came up. When it did, the Lord Digory and the Lady Polly looked at one another and gave a little nod: those two, in a different world, had once seen a dying sun, and so they knew at once that this sun also was dying. It was three times—twenty times—as big as it ought to be, and very dark red. As its rays fell upon the great Time-giant, he turned red too: and in the reflection of that sun the whole waste of shoreless waters looked like blood.
Then the Moon came up, quite in her wrong position, very close to the sun, and she also looked red. And at the sight of her the sun began shooting out great flames, like whiskers or snakes of crimson fire, towards her. It is as if he were an octopus trying to draw her to himself in his tentacles. And perhaps he did draw her. At any rate she came to him, slowly at first, but then more and more quickly, till at last his long flames licked round her and the two ran together and became one huge ball like a burning coal. Great lumps of fire came dropping out of it into the sea and clouds of steam rose up.
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.
Everyone except Aslan jumped back from the ice-cold air which now blew through the Doorway. Its edges were already covered with icicles.
“Peter, High King of Narnia,” said Aslan. “Shut the Door.”
Peter, shivering with cold, leaned out into the darkness and pulled the Door to. It scraped over ice as he pulled it. Then, rather clumsily (for even in that moment his hands had gone numb and blue) he took out a golden key and locked it.
They had seen strange things enough through that Doonvay. But it was stranger than any of them to look round and find themselves in warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.
He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow.
“Come further in! Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder. But who could keep up with him at that pace? They set out walking westward to follow him.
“So,” said Peter, “Night falls on Narnia. What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?”
“Don’t try to stop me, Peter,” said Lucy, “I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia. Think of all that lies dead and frozen behind that door.”
“Yes and I did hope,” said Jill, “that it might go on for ever. I knew our world couldn’t. I did think Narnia might.”
“I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die.”
“Sirs,” said Tirian. “The ladies do well to weep. See I do so myself. I have seen my mother’s death. What world but Narnia have I ever known? It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.”
Michael Ward, Rose Strang. Demarco Gallery at Summerhall (photo Fernanda Zei)
Richard Demarco. Michael Ward. Main Hall, Summerhall (photo Adam Brewster)
The launch of ‘The Planets. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis’ was a great success and very enjoyable indeed!
The exhibition continues until Sunday the 22nd September and is open daily from 1 to 6pm at the Demarco Galleries, Summerhall.
On Saturday 21st, from 3 to 5pm, there will be an associated event in the gallery space, featuring an animation by Adam Brewster, which very poetically captures the idea of changing planetary influence according to the Medieval cosmos and the imagination of C.S. Lewis. This will be followed by a moving excerpt from ‘The Last Battle’ by C.S. Lewis: ‘Night falls on Narnia’, read by Dr Charles Stephens. The event will round off with a cello performance in response to this excerpt from ‘The Last Battle’, by cellist/composer Atzi Muramatsu, with whom I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate since 2013.
It’s always interesting to meet someone whose work you admire; a bonus if you enjoy their company too! Michael really added towards making the event relaxed and good-humoured – friends and family and all there including myself enjoyed meeting him.
Although Michael Ward’s ideas on the Narniad can be summarised in a few phrases on one level, it’s a complex subject that benefits most from in-depth reading around the ideas. Readers of this blog will have learned some of the concepts expressed in ‘Planet Narnia’ here, but Michael Ward’s talk on Thursday demonstrated how much more effective it is to actually hear Michael talk about it – far more entertaining!
The talk was fascinating and sparked a range of interesting questions afterwards. I heard first-hand from several friends how intrigued they were by the subject, and that they’ll be reading more about it, so I hope that leads to more sales of ‘Planet Narnia’.
There was discussion of a potential follow-on exhibition in Oxford, so fingers crossed that will find a way to go ahead next year.
Michael Ward. Fernanda Zei. (Photo Rose Strang)
I was very moved by the attention to detail by exhibition curator Fernanda Zei, who understood the themes and visual aesthetics so intelligently and presented them with great sensitivity.
For me there was no doubt where I wanted to show this exhibition; Richard Demarco’s work across the decades is characterised by a search for truth, meaning and healing in the arts. I knew that Richard, Terry Anne Newman (Deputy Director of the Demarco Archive Trust) and Fernanda Zei (Demarco Trust Curator) would respond to the themes and present the exhibition with intelligence and they surpassed my expectations in that regard.
My warm thanks to Michael Ward, all at the Demarco Galleries, and to loved ones, family and friends who attended. Particular thanks and appreciation to Christine Aldred, who bought ‘Sun’!
The Demarco Archive Exhibitions is presenting an exhibition of new paintings by Rose Strang from Friday 13th to Sunday 22nd of September in the ground floor of the Demarco Wing at Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL . The exhibition will be open from 1pm to 6pm – Daily.
Rose Strang’s paintings have been inspired by Michael Ward’s book ‘Planet Narnia’, a study of C.S. Lewis’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia’.
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), the author of the Narnia stories, published in the 1950s, described the seven planets of the medieval cosmos as “spiritual symbols of permanent value”. Lewis wrote a great deal about the planets in his work as scholar at the University of Oxford and then the University of Cambridge where he was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature from 1954 to 1963. Dante and Chaucer are among the major English writers of the Middle Ages to make extensive use of the seven heavens in their poetry.
Lewis’ seven ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ are structured so as to embody and express these seven “spiritual symbols”. Michael Ward discovered this link in the course of his PhD research at the University of St Andrews. His book ‘Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis’ [Oxford University Press 2007] presents his findings, as does the BBC television documentary, ‘The Narnia Code’ .
When artist Rose Strang discovered Michael Ward’s work, she was inspired by Lewis’ fascination for these seven “spiritual symbols” and decided to produce her own paintings depicting the atmosphere and influences of each planet. These paintings will now be shown in this exhibition at the Demarco Archive at Summerhall.
The Private View will be on Thursday 12th September at 6pm on the ground floor of the Demarco Wing at Summerhall and then at 6.30pma talkby Michael Ward will take place in the Main Hall on level one at Summerhall followed by a conversation between Michael Ward and Professor Richard Demarco.