This latest watercolour is a little less straight-forward than my usual whimsy. Taking the starting point of the fable ‘The Lion and the Mouse‘, the project quickly escalated in my mind to include a bit of a miss-mash of interlinking ideas.
I was intersted to learn that:
Sculptors turned to the fable in the 20th century. One of them was the maker of church furniture, Robert (Mouseman) Thompson, who came by his name for incorporating a mouse into most of his carvings. He did this legitimately in the Church of Our Lady and St Michael in Workington, Cumbria, where the underside of one of the seats in the choir stalls, installed in 1926, depicts the fable of the lion and the mouse.
Which made the fable even more personal to me, as this is my home town! Included in the background then are a few nods to Workington – mainly the hills of Scotland seen from the working port, a schematic of Curwen Hall and a few local buildings.
Lions and mice naturally lead one to think of Aslan, and Lewis’ depiction of Christ’s crucifixion on the stone altar (harking back to the ram in the thicket and all manner of christian iconography), and for me I cannot look at this scene without remembering The Mask of Anarchy by Shelley. It seems we have lived in the shadow of the Peterloo Massacre, whether wittingly or not, ever since. I certainly cannot accept ruling class ideology in an age of austerity when we see uber-billionaires and oligarchs given carte blanche to destroy the lives of the working class and the planet with impunity. Harking to the sentiments echoed in Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, the idea of resistance to dark forces of state sanctioned violence still remain relevant today. Freedom, liberty, democracy, these inalienable rights that we take to be self-evident are continuously undermined and circumvented by those who would seek to prosper from our enslavement.
I think it is my favourite piece of poetry of all time, and this one, oft used verse, could not be said better:
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
In today’s terms the slogan would be ‘We are the 99%’.
In the painting the sleeping lion is being rescued by the mice, working together, small but plentiful. He rests his head on the black and red flag of anarcho-syndicalist as the traditional (A) symbol “Anarchy is the mother of Order” lies underneath.
It’s a theme I hope to return to.