Tag Archives: Narnia Chronicles

A Response to ‘The Last Battle’.

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.”

Exhibition Launch!

Setting up, with Fernanda Zei and Dr Charles Stephens at the Demarco Galleries yesterday

It’s very exciting indeed to be in the final stages of setting up next week’s exhibition launch at the Demarco Gallery: The Planets. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis

This exhibition represents almost a year of painting in response to the work of C.S. Lewis and Planet Narnia. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by author Dr Michael Ward.

I’m delighted that Michael will be giving a talk as part of the exhibition launch at the Demarco Galleries, Summerhall, Edinburgh, on Thursday September 12th at 6pm. (all details on link below)

All welcome! Please R.S.V.P. on this link if you wish to attend: Exhibition Invite

Exhibition Information …

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’ [2009].

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 6.30pm a talk by 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.

‘Saturn’ (September ‘Planets’ exhibition 2019)

‘Saturn. Planets Series’. Oil on 30×30″ panel. Rose Strang 2019

This is the final ‘Saturn’, created for the upcoming exhibition on the 12th September this year. This one was painted purely in oils since black is such a tricky colour to work with and oil pigment has more depth of pigment and versatile texture.

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’.

The exhibition launch takes place at 6pm on the 12th September at the Demarco Archives Gallery in Edinburgh’s Summerhall. (The rest of the series in progress can be viewed Here)

 

I’m particularly looking forward to the accompanying talk by Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia. The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis) which begins at 6:30pm 12th September in the Main Hall at Summerhall, Edinburgh, as part of the exhibition launch.

Michael Ward is one of the world’s leading experts on the works of C.S. Lewis. It was his particular interest in the Narniad that led to his unique discovery that each of the Narnia Chronicles corresponds to the seven planets as understood in Medieval imagination.

Michael studied English Literature at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a PhD in Divinity from St Andrews. His PHD focused on the Narnia Chronicles, and it was during PHD research that he chanced upon the link between the books and Medieval planets. Only someone steeped in the entire works of Lewis, including Lewis’ poetry, would have recognised these associations.

Towards the end of 2018 I was exploring medieval symbology when I discovered one of Michael’s lectures on You Tube (see link below) which explored the Narnia/Medieval planets connection. Having been a Lewis aficionado since childhood I was immediately intrigued, so I ordered the book and have been attempting an artistic response ever since.

It has proved highly challenging, but I know I’ll be exploring these themes further in future. It has been richly rewarding, not just artistically but absolutely as part of exploring life’s experiences – difficult to explain why until you yourself have explored these rich associations, which reach back into pre-history in many ways, yet have contemporary and individual significance.

I never imagined I’d be delving so deep into these ideas and I’m grateful that Michael has responded so positively to the artworks, and I was of course delighted when he agreed to give the talk this September.

I was also delighted that Richard Demarco was enthusiastic about hosting the exhibition and event at his gallery in Summerhall, since Richard’s life’s work in the arts touches on many of the themes explored in this exhibition and talk (such as a non-linear concept of time, connections between the arts, sciences and faith, and ways of imagining or perceiving our experience of life).

I highly recommend watching this documentary (link below) for a taste of why it’s so fascinating as a subject. Michael Ward is an engaging and humorous speaker, and I’m sure that people from all walks of life, whether from a creative, historic, literary or theological perspective (not to mention the many people across the world who simply appreciate the Narniad as engaging and compelling stories) will really enjoy the talk this September, and I hope, the exhibition of my paintings too!

On to the big ‘Planets Series’ at last!

‘Sun, Planets Series’. Mixed media on 30×30″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019.

I’m now working on the big ‘Planets Series’ paintings, and today completed the 30×30 inch version of ‘Sun, Planets Series’ (above).

I mentioned a while back that there will be a September exhibition, and I’ve been waiting to confirm a few details before announcing the exciting news that Michael Ward, author of the excellent Planet Narnia, the Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis will be giving a talk at the exhibition launch!

If you’ve read any of my blog recently you’ll know how inspired I’ve been by the book, which uncovers the hidden meaning behind the seven Chronicles of Narnia. In the book, Michael Ward describes the influence that Medieval Cosmology, and related myths surrounding each of the planets, had on the Narnia Chronicles, with each book corresponding to a particular planet as understood in the Medieval cosmos.

Nowhere in the Narnia Chronicles is this made explicit, but as Michael Ward explains, Lewis evokes the influence, atmosphere and associated qualities of each planet in the stories. It took someone as steeped in all of Lewis’s literary works to recognise Lewis’s particular understanding of Medieval mythology, also to recognise that C.S. Lewis was absolutely the sort of writer, and character, who would wish to keep this meaning hidden…

If you want to find out more, then keep your diary free for the 12th September 2019. The exhibition and accompanying talk by Michael Ward is being hosted by the Demarco Gallery at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

If you’re a C.S. Lewis aficionado you don’t want to miss it! I’ll be posting the rest of the Planets series at it emerges in the next two months.

Here’s the excerpt from Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (corresponding to the Sun) which I was thinking of when painting today …

Venus revisited

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

The final small version of Venus, finished today – just a day before the exhibition!

I felt the earlier version was twee and unconvincing – I was going for a mythical look which veered towards Disney, when I wanted something a bit more primordial – an Eden-like landscape of lushness. So although I’ll never be satisfied with my attemps at a Venusian atmosphere at least this is a little closer.

I enjoyed painting the rougher brushwork too. Here’s a detail …

Exhibition launches tomorrow, with a performance by my friend and collaborator, the excellent Atzi Muramatsu, who’ll be responding to the themes and paintings on cello! All info here Planets Series

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…

Planets Series Open Studio Day

‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

‘Planets Series. Jupiter’. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

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.

The planets

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’ …

‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

(Side View) ‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’…

‘Planets Series. Jupiter’. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018

(Side view) ‘Planets Series. Jupiter’. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018

(Hand to show scale) ‘Planets Series. Jupiter’. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 rose.strang@gmail.com