‘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.