"The Planets – The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis"

by Rose Strang

(13th - 22nd of September 2019)

The Demarco Archive Exhibitions is presenting an exhibition of seven paintings by Rose Strang from Friday 13th to Sunday 22nd of September in the ground floor of the Demarco Wing at Summerhall. The exhibition will be open from 1pm to 6pm - Daily.

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.

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.

There will also be a programme of events associated with the exhibition.

There will be a showing of 'The Narnia Code' DVD each afternoon, between 13th and 20th September at 3pm

as well as a daily showing of Adam Brewster’s animation in the exhibition space.

On Saturday 21st September, there will be a programme of films, music and readings associated with the exhibition:

3:30pm - Animation by Adam Brewster (BAFTA Scotland nomination for best interactive multi-media project, 2010). Created in response to themes of the exhibition.

4pm - Reading by Dr. Charles Stephens, excerpt from 'The Last Battle', by C.S. Lewis.

4:15pm - Cello performance by Atzi Muramatsu ( BAFTA Scotland Best Composer New Talent Award 2016) a response to C.S. Lewis' 'The Last Battle’

 

 

Please RSVP to Fernanda Zei at demarco.archives@gmail.com by 9th September 2019

 

I N T R O D U C T I O N

 

The Planets – The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Rose Strang

 

My interest as a painter is in communicating an atmospheric, visceral response to landscape – also researching the environment, history and geology of the landscape I paint. As an artist born in Edinburgh most of my work is in response to Scottish landscape, though I also paint portraits. I sometimes work in collaboration with poets or musicians, which I find an inspiring and rewarding creative process.

                                   Rose Strang

 

Rose Strang's recent paintings shown in this exhibition have been inspired by Prof Michael Ward's book 'Planet Narnia', a study of C.S. Lewis' 'Chronicles of Narnia'.

 

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), the author of the 'Chronicles of Narnia', 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 medieval understanding of 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. William Shakespeare was also inspired by the same vision as can be seen in these words from 'The Merchant of Venice':

 

Look how the floor of heaven

Is thick inlaid with patins of bright gold:

There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st But in his motion like an angel sings,

Still quiring to the young-eye cherubins; Such harmony is in immortal souls;

But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

 

Lewis himself used the same vision which had inspired Dante, Chaucer and Shakespeare in 'Out of the Silent Planet' [1938]:

 

[Ransom] had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now - now that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it dead'; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren; he saw now that it was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the Earth with so many eyes - and here, with how many more! No: Space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens.

 

Until recently, literary critics tended to be decidedly dismissive of the 'Chronicles of Narnia'. 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 'Chronicles of Narnia' are among the most enduringly popular children’s stories of all time. They have broad appeal, not just to children but to adults, also to varying religious groups due to Christian themes.

 

Prof Michael Ward discovered the link between the medieval understanding of the planets and C. S. Lewis' 'The Chronicles of Narnia' 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 Prof 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. This series of paintings by Rose Strang 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. The paintings are a visual response to the planets as depicted in Lewis' Narnia stories.

 

Rose Strang's work has been shown in galleries around the UK and abroad including the Royal Scottish Academy; the City Art Centre, the Open Eye and Sutton Galleries in Edinburgh; the Resipole Gallery, Acharacle, Argyll; The Lighthouse, Brighton; Limetree in Bristol; Gallery One, Berlin and Corte Real in Portugal.

 

 

D E M A R C O  A R C H I V E 

E X H I B I T I O N S

 

Exhibition Curators: Prof Richard Demarco and Fernanda Zei Exhibition Administrative Assistant: Dr Charles Stephens

Filmmaker: Dr. Marco Federici demarco.archives@gmail.com

1 Summerhall Edinburgh, EH9 1PL www.demarcoarchive.com

 © 2019 

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