‘You Can Lead a Horse to Water…’ – Béla Tarr’s ‘TURIN HORSE’ in Kraków

'Sindy and the Troika', black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken symbolises possessions left behind when people flee their homes during war or disaster.

‘Sindy and the Troika’, black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken

Incessant winda dirge of clawing violins on repeat… ’Doom’ on his hands and knees, crawling ever closer with each sunset, along his impending trail of inevitable cataclysm, until finally he reaches the desolate cottage on the Hungarian plains.

Bela Tarr’s finale to his epic film-making career ‘Turin Horse’ is a triumph of Apocalyptic cinema.  In the beginning: a black screen and Tarr’s voice narrating a vigil of white text informs us that on 3rd January 1889 in Turin, Friedrich Nietzsche reached out to protect a horse being beaten by its owner, experienced a terminal breakdown and lived a further ‘silent and demented’ 10 years until his death… “We do not know what happened to the horse.”

Opening scene, 'Turin Horse', Béla Tarr, 2011

Opening scene, ‘Turin Horse’, Béla Tarr, 2011

The Wind Blows Where it Wishes: an elderly man driving his horse and cart, battle through an abrasive gale along a country road, escorted by Mihály Víg’s vulturous score, reminiscent of Philip Glass’s composition for ‘Candyman’, until they finally reach an isolated cottage.  A woman steps from the shadows of a barn to help the old man unbridle the horse and lead it to stable and rest.  The bait is eaten as we are reeled in by our temptation to find out what happens next…not much and yet so much.  No names, no histoire and a minimalist script, Béla Tarr leaves us virtually at the mercy of the mesmerising, monochrome cinematography of Fred Kelemen.

'Daughter' trudging to the well in 'Turin Horse', Béla Tarr, 2011

‘Daughter’ trudging to the well, ‘Turin Horse’, Béla Tarr, 2011

From the unbuttoning and buttoning of tattered clothes, folding of linen and the skinning by hand of hot boiled potatoes to reach the piping flesh; the daughter’s gruelling daily walk to the well in the prophetic wind to fetch water, we watch almost as if in real time 6 days of peasant hardship, grind and repetitive misery, that are the lives of an old man and his daughter in their dark, aged cottage whilst Abaddon rages outside.  Tarr’s appreciation of such adversity brings us perhaps as close as we can come to watching how our 19th century peasant forebears lived, and is almost the triumph of the film.  In parallel, Tarr’s vision gives us what Van Gogh gave us with ‘The Potato Eaters’ a wish to spare us nothing,

'The Potato Eaters', Vincent Van Gogh, 1885

‘The Potato Eaters’, Vincent Van Gogh, 1885

“You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours — civilized people. So I certainly don’t want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why.”, Vincent Van Gogh“Letter 497”, The Letters, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Almost the triumph of the film, but not quite.

Whilst the camera focuses on a black blizzard of bird-like leaves wheeling through the foreground, the father and daughter leading their horse, their well now empty of water, attempt to escape the world counting down to oblivion.  As their tragic out of focus figures wrestle along the distant horizon of a ridge with a single tree, I can feel the gentle breath from Lily’s canine nose on my hand as she lies beside me on the sofa. Like the quiet grace of the ‘horse’, Lily’s reassuring, measured breaths during that bleak scene reinforce the innocence humanity literally holds in its hands, a ‘key point’ of Tarr’s film.

'Horse', 'Turin Horse', Béla Tarr, 2011

‘Horse’, ‘Turin Horse’, Béla Tarr, 2011

And Darkness was on the Face of the Deep: The triumph of the film is the horse. Her dignity, the majesty with which her whole being seems to say ‘humanity you led us all to this, and now there is not even water to drink’.  The horse is our prophet, her intelligence far surpasses ours as she warns us life as we know it is over, that we have lost light and we are now plunging back into the darkness before creation, by man’s hand and Nature’s.

“The key point is that the humanity, all of us, including me, are responsible for destruction of the world. But there is also a force above human at work – the gale blowing throughout the film – that is also destroying the world. So both humanity and a higher force are destroying the world.” Bela Tarr, 2011

Bar in Kraków, 2007

Bar in Kraków, 2007

Watching ‘Turin Horse’ reminded me of a drawing I did in 2008 after a trip to  Kraków, ‘Sindy and the Troika’, which visited a theme I have often explored; fear and transpiration from the approach of a warring army.  We were staying in Kazimierz, which was once the heart of Jewish Kraków until the Nazis mercilessly ‘cleared’ the ghetto in WWII, depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Schindler’s List’, sending most of its Jewish inhabitants to their demise in nearby death camps like Auschwitz.

Kraków bar with Singer sewing machine as table, 2007

Me in another Kazimierz bar furnished with Singer sewing machine tables, Kraków, 2007

Kazimierz is now a vibrant art and cafe culture district and it was whilst in one of the many beautiful bars, which include bars like ‘Singer’ furnished with Singer sewing machine tables, that I found inspiration for the drawing.  I often contemplate the hellish fear that must overtake people when they are awaiting the onslaught of an enemy army. Documentaries are an audio visual record of this, but sitting in a room, that was originally a ghetto room where probably too many inhabited too few square feet, was sobering even with several Żubrówka‘s sunk accompanied by Polish cigarettes.

Kraków bar, 2007

Kraków bar, 2007

The room seemed to have been left just as if its inhabitants had walked out the door to find food, although perhaps they weren’t searching for food, perhaps they had fled from what must almost feel like the invasion of an alien army of super-humans from another planet as their wrath seems beyond that of civilised members of our own species.

Tapestry in Kraków bar, 2007

Vintage Russian Tapestry in Kraków bar, 2007

The bar owners had decorated the bar with a kitsch vintage tapestry of wolves hunting a man driving a troika.  I wondered where the tapestry had come from, I imagined it as the type of possession left by fleeing civilians not just across Poland but Europe – a cottage perhaps where the inhabitants left their favourite tapestry and their children’s toys for the hellfire of the oncoming German army or from fear of retaliation from the Allied Armies.

Official USSR photograph of Red Army in combat WWII, Artist's own collection.

The end of the Battle of Stalingrad turns the tide of war and the Red Army begin their offensive and fight their way to Berlin, often taking revenge for the inconceivable brutality perpetrated by the Wehrmacht on Russian civilians.  Official USSR photograph of Russian soldiers in combat, WWII, 1944, Artist’s own collection.

In the drawing the dishevelled, handless Sindy doll represents the brutality often waged upon civilian populations during war as well as the memories of children at play before fate’s hand led them to their destiny.  The tapestry symbolises life preceding war, of a beautiful forest and traditions and landscapes lost forever to war.  And like the father and daughter in ‘Turin Horse’, many families met their uncertain fates together.

'Sindy and the Troika', black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken symbolises possessions left behind when people flee their homes during war or disaster.

‘Sindy and the Troika’, black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken symbolises possessions left behind when people flee their homes during war or disaster.

For further information and Luxury Archival Prints made to order by one of the best printmaker’s in the UK Jack Lowe Studio please visit my website.

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‘Lily and the Kids’ – In the Deep, Dark Forests of Europe

'Lily and the Kids', 2012, Biro drawing and vintage German postcard, by Jane Lee McCracken (postcard Artist's own collection bought on Ebay)

‘Lily and the Kids’, by Jane Lee McCracken, 2012, quilt square design, blue and black Biro drawing and vintage German postcard of Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein

Once upon a time there lived a Woodcutter in a cottage, deep in the forests of Europe, who collected images and objects.  No one ever saw the Woodcutter for he was a recluse and preferred the company of the forest animals rather than people.  But he saw everything, the good and the bad.  At first life and death as Nature intended and in time, life and death in Man’s own way.  The Woodcutter’s only companion was a television set where he gained his knowledge of the world outside the forests through film.  The forest animals came and went over time, the people and the wars.  And in response to all he saw in the forests and on the screen he made art – drawings and objects to remember the animals and people by and to ask ‘WHY?'”

‘Lily and the Kids’ is the first of a quintet of quilt squares specifically designed for ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’ which was part of the installation for ‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ Exhibition.  The quintet was created using black, blue and colour Biro drawings, vintage postcards bought on Ebay from my own collection and stills from Russian animation films.

'The Woodcutter's Quilt', 2012, transfers on calico, hand embroidery and black silk by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’, 2012, transfers on calico, hand embroidery and black silk by Jane Lee McCracken

The other four squares include:

‘Bear’

'Bear', 2012, colour Biro drawing and vintage German Postcard by Jane Lee McCracken (Postcard Artist's own collection bought on Ebay)

‘Bear’, by Jane Lee McCracken, 2012, quilt square design, colour Biro drawing and vintage German postcard of Snow White

‘Ice Fox’

'Ice Fox', 2012, colour Biro drawing and digital montage of Ivan Bilibin postcard by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Ice Fox’, by Jane Lee McCracken, 2012, quilt square design, colour Biro drawing and Ivan Bilibin postcard

‘Siberian Tiger’

'Siberian Tiger', 2012, colour Biro drawing and digital montage of Ivan Bilibin postcard by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Siberian Tiger’, Jane Lee McCracken, 2012, quilt square design, colour Biro drawing and Ivan Bilibin postcard

‘Doll, Pink Boris and the Rabbit’

'Doll, Pink Boris and The Rabbit', 2012 colour Biro drawing and montage of Artist's still of the animation 'Fox and Rabbit' by Yuri Norstein, by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Doll, Pink Boris and The Rabbit’, Jane Lee McCracken, 2012, quilt square design, colour Biro drawing and Artist’s still of the animation ‘Fox and Rabbit’ by Yuri Norstein, 1973

‘Lily and the Kids’ and ‘Bear’ limited edition Archival Pigment Prints made by the excellent Jack Lowe Studio are sold with profits donated to the Wolves and Humans Foundation

‘Ice Fox’ and ‘Siberian Tiger’ limited edition Archival Pigment Prints also made by Jack Lowe Studio are sold with profits donated to the Born Free Foundation

For further information on prints please visit my website 

HAPPY BURNS DAY!

And to the Haggis,

“Fair fa’ your honest, soncie face,

Great Chieftain o’ the puddin race”

What the Children Saw – ‘LORE’ and Generation War Child

'The Sideboard II', 2009, red Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCrackenThis triptych portrays memories of a small child at play in a sideboard, within the safety of ‘home’, before the onset of war. It was inspired by the girl in the red coat from the film ‘Schindler’s List’, 1993, Steven Spielberg, as she wanders through the Kraków Ghetto while it is being ‘cleared’’. The Artist uses her niece to model for this piece to highlight the indiscriminate nature of war and how it can affect ‘anyone’ and to provoke understanding of loss by seeing victims as individuals and not statistics.

‘The Sideboard II’, 2009, red Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken part of a “triptych (which) portrays memories of a small child at play using a sideboard, within the safety of ‘home’, before the onset of war… inspired by ‘the girl in the red coat’ from the film ‘Schindler’s List’, 1993, Steven Spielberg, as she wanders through the Kraków Ghetto while it is being ‘cleared’. This piece highlights the indiscriminate nature of war and how it can affect ‘anyone’ and provokes understanding of loss by seeing victims as individuals and not statistics.”

No child should see what generations of children growing up during war have seen or are seeing.  Their eyes are forced to soak up the bloody spillage engendered by the very generations who are supposed to guide them safely to adulthood.  ‘Collective guilt’ particularly after WWII often dictates a rule of silence leaving many children and young adults unable to express the horror they have witnessed.  Dealing inwardly with a recurring nightmare spawned from observing the grotesquery of war, can cause psychological catastrophe for many and a lifetime of suffering.

Saskia 'Lore', 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland’s 2012 film presents us not only with all of the above but ultimately shares a reality that has echoed down the years, ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’, Plato

Lore and her siblings, 'Lore', Cate Shortland, 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

Through a fluttering curtained window into the cinematically exquisite trampled fairy tale of a fleeing Nazi family, teenage Lore turns her beautiful face towards the camera and commences the unravelling of her contorted mind of lies.  The chorally haunted forests of Schwarzwald provide the setting for an epic journey’s beginning, as Lore’s high ranking Nazi parents disappear into the forests deep in the American enclave, leaving their five children to find a way through the aftermath of WWII to Grandmother’s in Hamburg.  The extraorindary Saskia Rosendahl’s ‘Lore’ is forced to confront her Nazi indoctrination, anti-Semitism and hero-worshipping of her father whom she discovers to be a war criminal responsible for genocide; she witnesses the scaling denial of a nation, all whilst leading her young brothers, including baby Peter and her younger sister Liesel to safety.

'Lore',

Saskia Rosendahl’s ‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

Adam Arkapaw’s stunning cinematography often gentle and sun-blanched, has wisps of Gerhard Richter’s paintings flickering through it.  A motion parallel to Richter’s ‘Betty’, 1988 (Richter was himself a child during WWII) and homage to his blurred photo-paintings echo throughout the film especially in the sequence when Lore dances with her sister Liesel.

'Betty', 1988, Gerhard Richter

‘Betty’, Gerhard Richter, 1988

Many refugees experienced chance, often fleeting encounters with strangers who changed the course of their lives in the unwinding chaos of WWII Europe.  A Jewish concentration camp survivor, Kai Malina’s ‘Thomas’, covets Lore and eventually becomes the siblings guardian angel whilst Lore’s beliefs and body crumble in the rubble and decay of ‘Gomorrah’. The greatest achievement of this impressive film, for there are many, is to communicate a picture of what discovering the unfolding horror show of war looks like, as if we too are there sharing the unearthing with the children.  This film gifts us within a closer proximity than others of its ilk, of trying to comprehend the aftershock of WWII.

Lore and her siblings, 'Lore', 2012

Lore and her siblings, ‘Lore’, 2012

It is often impossible to put into words something you have never seen or experienced yourself, but “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound”, Ivan Turgenev. Perhaps images more than words help us ‘the unexperienced fortunates’ gain any sort of understanding of what witnessing the horror of war actually means.

Detail of Julien Bryan's "Ten-year-old Polish girl Kazimiera Mika mourning the death of her sister, caused by strafing German aircraft, near Warsaw, Poland. 13 Sep 1939"

Detail of Julien Bryan’s “Ten-year-old Polish girl Kazimiera Mika mourning the death of her sister, caused by strafing German aircraft, near Warsaw, Poland. 13 Sep 1939”

For further information about ‘The Sideboard’ triptych, please visit my website

Death’s-head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos) – Biro Drawing Moth Series

'Death's-head Hawkmoth', 2012, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Death’s-head Hawkmoth’, 2012, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Death’s-head Hawkmoth’, is the first of a quartet of colour Biro drawings of British Moth species celebrating the beauty of moths.  The drawings were created as integral elements in the pattern design for the ‘British Moth Throw’, made in 2012.

'British Moth Entomology Drawer', 2013 by Jane Lee McCracken, the Mercer Gallery Harrogate.  Dressing table is Artist's Grandmother's, circa 1940

‘British Moth Entomology Drawer’, 2013 by Jane Lee McCracken, the Mercer Gallery Harrogate. Dressing table is Artist’s Grandmother’s, circa 1940

The ‘British Moth Throw’ illustrates the beauty of moths and attempts to dispel their image as dusty, cloth eaters whilst highlighting the rapid and devastating depletion of many British Moth species.

'The British Moth Throw', 2012, detail, hand-cut transfers on calico

‘British Moth Throw’, 2012, detail, hand-cut transfers on calico

'The British Moth Throw', 2012, detail, hand-cut transfers on calico

‘British Moth Throw’, 2012, detail, hand-cut transfers on calico

Made from printed transfers, hand-cut and applied to calico the throw is displayed on the Artist’s Grandmother’s Jacobean bed, circa 1940.

'British Moth Throw' displayed in 2013 at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate - Artist's Grandmother's bed circa 1940

‘British Moth Throw’ displayed in 2013 at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate – Artist’s Grandmother’s bed circa 1940

Prints of the British Moths series are available from my website shop and are sold in aid of UK charity ‘Butterfly Conservation’

'Small Elephant Hawk-moth', 2012, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Small Elephant Hawk-moth’, 2012, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Wrapped in Rugby’ – a Scots Memoir of the Oval Ball Game

Douglas S. Bruce at the playing fields of Goldenacre, Edinburgh in 1959

Douglas S. Bruce at the playing fields of Goldenacre, Edinburgh in 1959

When my Uncle Douglas kindly asked if I would design the cover of his first book, a memoir of his life’s passion, the game of Rugby, it wasn’t long before I found the perfect image. During a visit to the beautiful Isle of Skye and chez Bruce, I discovered an old sepia photograph of my Uncle aged 10, oval ball under arm, standing on the playing fields of his Edinburgh school, anno 1959.  Catching sight of the Victorian ‘Red Pavilion’ in the background of the photograph, George Heriot’s cricket club, where the head groundsman and his wife who were friend’s of my father’s lived, pressed the play button in my head and played out a whirlwind of technicolour images of blue faced winged monkeys, beguiling ‘Ruby Slippers’ and dog ‘Toto’ accompanied by the rousing ‘Ride of the Valkyries’; memories of a Christmas visit when I was a child.  A peppering of pigeons flying through a dreich Edinburgh skyline echoed the garden scene through the Skye window, of woodpeckers and blackbirds fluttering around a creatively constructed firewood bird-table, under the shadows of the Red and Black Cuillins.  And the boy, that bonny blue-eyed, hoop shirted child who’s escapades my mother never ceased to amuse my sister and I with, grew into the wonderful uncle who stood beside me in 2012 making us toast.  Reading ‘Wrapped in Rugby’ informed missing generational times before I was born, because this is no ordinary sports book!

Back cover detail of 'Wrapped in Rugby'.

Back cover detail of ‘Wrapped in Rugby’.

I am a football and cricket girl, although would not normally choose to read sporting books of any sort, being most comfortable reading the likes of Roberto Bolano’s ‘2666’ or Maxim Gorky’s ‘My Childhood’.  But even the sections solely devoted to rugby are enlightening for us round ball game lovers, a converting education!  The recounting of a brutal rugby match in the 1960’s on a bleak hung-over Scottish New Year’s Day in the Borders town of Hawick, fought on a frozen pitch turn into literary hilarity,

“The playing surface was like concrete and worse, vehicles had been driven over the pitch when it was muddy.  The tyre impressions were now like a scattering of lumberjack’ hand saws.  It was a suicide mission for both teams if the game was to go ahead.  To go ahead it was (and) like the ANZACS at Gallipoli we did as we were bidden and prepared for suicide.’

There are so many beautiful turns of phrase, metaphors, so much `laugh out loud’ inherited Fife wit I needed a second copy of the book to annotate or the precious signed copy I was reading would have been graffitied all over!

Uncle Douglas and my beautiful late Auntie Rosemary, Wedding Day, 1973

Uncle Douglas and my beautiful late Auntie Rosemary’s Wedding Day, Edinburgh, 1971

Of course I am a wee bit biased, I’m reading a book by the best uncle in the world!  But I hope I’m fair also.   I found it an eloquently written social history of Edinburgh in the 50’s and 60’s, recounting hysterical life stories, stories I hadn’t heard before, relating tenderly and artfully moving tributes to the likes of my Grandfather, all whilst managing to successfully engage a sub-consciously reluctant niece to understand his enormous passion for rugby. Entwining a history of twentieth and early twenty-first century Scottish rugby throughout the book he reveals personal observations of the politically charged scrum from amateur to professional Scottish rugby. There are many people including my father who will remember fondly the game as it was and for them this book is a tribute to those selfless days when rugby was played for enjoyment, camaraderie and passion. For younger rugby loving generations this is a history of the game their forefathers played with carefree abandon, and unrestricted innocence. Also recorded are my uncle’s tireless efforts to bring rugby to smaller Scottish communities and their younger players as well as the Scottish community at large and it’s youngsters spurred by his passion for the game – it is an inspiration and revelation to me of someone I know well under different circumstances, giving back something they love to others. This is an epic memoir in my opinion, honest, affecting, beautifully written by a very humble, funny and passionate man, my uncle.

'Wrapped in Rugby', Douglas S. Bruce, 2013

‘Wrapped in Rugby’, Douglas S. Bruce, 2013

To order ‘Wrapped in Rugby’ please visit Amazon

‘ATKA’ Wolf Drawing Raises over $1500 for Wolf Conservation Center

'Atka', 2013, original black Biro drawing

‘Atka’, 2013, original black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Atka‘ original Biro drawing was auctioned on 13th December 2013 at the Wolf Conservation Center, NY‘s annual Wine and Wolves fundraiser.  Thank you so, so much to the winner and I hope you enjoy your drawing!  Every dollar helps the Wolf Conservation Center, NY promote the conservation and protection of wolves.  For more information about magnificent Atka and his friends please visit WCC, NY’s website.

Since the auction a luxury print edition of the original ‘ATKA’ drawing has been released and ALL profits from the sale of each print will be donated to the WCC for wolf conservation.

Luxurious Archival Pigment Prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm from the original Biro drawing are especially made to order crafted by prestigious photographer Jack Lowe of Jack Lowe Studio one of the best printmaker’s in the UK.

To purchase an ‘Atka’ print or for further information:

www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/shop/conservation art prints

'Atka', 2013, detail from original black Biro drawing

‘Atka’, 2013, detail from original black Biro drawing

‘Little Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ – Smashing the Stereotypes?

'Doll and Pink Boris', 2011, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken, part of design for 'Red Riding Hood's Cloak' fabric pattern

‘Doll and Pink Boris’, 2011, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken, part of design for ‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ fabric pattern

Little girls, this seems to say,
Never stop upon your way.
Never trust a stranger-friend;
No one knows how it will end.
As you’re pretty, so be wise;
Wolves may lurk in every guise.
Handsome they may be, and kind,
Gay, or charming never mind!
Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth—
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!

Charles Perrault, Le Petit Chaperon Rouge,1697

"Les Contes de Perrault" dessins par Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867

“Les Contes de Perrault” dessins par Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867

‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ 2012, was conceived for the ‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ Solo Exhibition shown at the Customs House Gallery, South Shields and The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate.  This piece focuses on the interpretation of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, as a parable to sexual maturity.  An ancient oral fairy tale, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ was first published by Charles Perrault as ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’ in 1697.  ‘Rotkäppchen’ written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1812 remains the most popular version to date. However, a different oral tale registered as far back as 1st century AD, ‘The Wolf and the Kids’ is now thought to be the originator of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ on the evolutionary tree of Fairy Tales, creating a separate branch for this most famous story.

"Les Contes de Perrault" dessins par Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867

“Les Contes de Perrault” dessins par Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867

Recent studies by anthropologist Dr Jamie Terhani of Durham University, suggest that ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘, which was once thought of as a tale that originated “in Chinese oral tradition”and “spread west, along the Silk Route” eventually creating the European versions of ‘The Wolf and the Kids’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is now thought to have derived from European oral traditions, “and not vice versa”.  Dr Jamie Terhani, ‘Science on the trail of The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood’, Durham University News November 2013

"Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein", vintage German postcard, Artist's collection

“Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein”, vintage German postcard, 1915, Artist’s collection

My first fairy tale book illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone first published 1967

My first fairy tale book illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, published 1967

Often considered as precautionary and educational fables orated by our forefathers to both adults and children, fairy tales have also long since been scrutinised by the likes of Freud and Jung for their psychoanalytic qualities.  Freud compared fairy tales to dreams, revelations of the unconscious mind, exposing our hidden fears and desires.  Freud’s all encompassing quote succinctly captures his opinion of man:

“Those who love fairy-tales do not like it when people speak of the innate tendencies in mankind toward aggression, destruction, and, in addition, cruelty. God has made them in his own image, with his own perfections; no one wants to be reminded how hard it is to reconcile the undeniable existence-in spite of all the protestations of Christian Science-of evil with His omnipotence and supreme goodness.”  Freud, 1856-1939

Illustration by Hermann Vogel of Wolf slain by Huntsman

Illustration for Grimm’s ‘Rotkappchen’, 1893, by German illustrator Hermann Vogel (1854-1921), Wolf slain by Huntsman

Jung however treads a longer, deeper path, developing the idea of ‘Collective Unconcious’, the ‘inborn’ unconscious mind, common to a collective species such as man, originating from the ancestral organisation of shared experiences, and naming ‘pre-existent’ unconscious forms as ‘Archetypes’.

“The concept of archetypes as the mode of expression of the collective unconscious is discussed. In addition to the purely personal unconscious hypothesised by Freud, a deeper unconscious level is felt to exist. This deeper level manifests itself in universal archaic images expressed in dreams, religious beliefs, myths, and fairy tales. The archetypes, as unfiltered psychic experience, appear sometimes in their most primitive and naive forms (in dreams), sometimes in a considerably more complex form due to the operation of conscious elaboration (in myths).”  Jung, 1875-1961

Sarah Patterson, 'The Company of Wolves', Neil Jordan, 1984

Film still of Sarah Patterson, ‘The Company of Wolves’, Neil Jordan, Palace Productions, 1984

So in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, archetypes such as the the protagonist’s red hood have been interpreted as the Dawn or blood; the wolf often symbolises a man in various guises from lover to sexual predator.  The cutting open of the wolf by the huntsman is sometimes interpreted as rebirth.

'The Bloody Chamber', Angela Carter, Vintage 2007

‘The Bloody Chamber’, Angela Carter, Vintage 2007, Artist’s own copy

Angela Carter’s book ‘The Bloody Chamber’, 1979 presents a wonderful version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in the form of the short story ‘The Company of Wolves’, considering the ‘sexual awakening’ concept.  Neil Jordan’s somewhat dated but nevertheless beautifully filmed and at times epically scored adaptation, bearing the same name as Carter’s story, ‘The Company of Wolves’, 1984, Palace Productions, realises luscious archetypal Fairy Tale imagery.

'The Company of Wolves' Neil Jordan, 1984, Special Edition DVD 2005

‘The Company of Wolves’ Neil Jordan, 1984, Special Edition DVD 2005, Artist’s own copy

“See!  Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.” ‘The Company of Wolves’, Angela Carter, 1979

'The Company of Wolves', Neil Jordan, 1984

‘The Company of Wolves’, set photograph of Sarah Patterson and wolf, Neil Jordan, Palace Productions, 1984

Inspired by the aforementioned research, I created the pattern for ‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ in the form of two colour Biro drawings.  The first drawing ‘Doll and Pink Boris’, 2012 incorporated a vintage Bradley Doll, circa 1960s/1970s purchased from Retro, High Bridge, Newcastle and a semi-wild Sika deer my sister and I came across in the forests of Dumfries and Galloway in 2011 named Boris by the local foresters, who I photographed as he broke through the pine trees into a clearing.  The heavily painted face of the doll represents girls who are reaching sexual maturity experimenting with make-up and other facets associated with ‘growing-up’.  Boris epitomises the imagery of innocence, the gentleness of a young deer, ‘the quiet before the storm’ of sexual awakening, the loss of innocence but the gaining of experience.  His fluorescent colouring signifies the stereotyping of girls with the colour pink.  A recent movement has seen groups such as Pink Stinks.org.uk campaign against the stereotyping ‘Pinkification’ of girls, felt to have a detrimental affect on both girls and boys, limiting the development of young girls.

'Blue Boris', 2012, blue Biro drawing, study for 'The Woodcutter's Quilt'

‘Blue Boris’, 2012, blue Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken, study for ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’

In response to this campaign I must admit that one of the first toys I remember was a race-track with racing cars, a predecessor of ‘Scalextric, my father bought me for my second Christmas, which I loved.  I don’t remember many pink toys in my repertoire of play; I transcended to echelons of tube-train driver in London as an adult, an experience I am very grateful for.  The toys and books I had as a child, as well as influential people and experiences, gave me an appetite for a variety of different interests across the stereotypical gender spectrum allowing me to see things beyond gender specifics.  The questioning by such organisations of ‘Pinkification’, I affirmatively note whilst buying toys for children in my life, is perhaps a distinctly important issue in forging a more positive development for young girls nowadays.

'Brown Bunny', 2012 colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Brown Bunny’, 2012 colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken, pattern design for cloak fabric

The second drawing ‘Brown Bunny’, 2012, depicts a  doe rabbit and is both a symbol of juvenility and reproduction . Rabbits reach sexual maturity between 3-8 months.  The tender age of the rabbit in the drawing highlights girls beginning puberty as early as 8 years of age, deeming such girls extremely vulnerable, where recent years have seen an upsurge in the UK of child and teenage pregnancies.  In the drawing the rabbit miscarries from a small wound on its side, denoting the vulnerability of all women to miscarriage.

'Red Riding Hood's Cloak, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken detail of cloak pattern

‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken detail of cloak pattern

Once made, the drawings were then scanned, printed on to transfer paper and cut out individually by hand, ironed onto calico, creating a unique fabric, then the fabric was cut out and sewn together to form the cloak.  The use of calico as the cloak fabric symbolises the emergence of a design in the making – calico prototypes are created in the fashion industry before a final garment is made.  They are raw and experimental just like young adults as they emerge from adolescence.  The hem of the cloak is left raw and frayed.

'Red Riding Hood's Cloak', The Mercer Art Gallery, 2013 next to my Grandmother's bed and 'The Woodcutter's Quilt'

‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’, The Mercer Art Gallery, 2013 next to my Grandmother’s bed with ‘The British Moth Throw’ and ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’

The vision for the cloak thereafter was to be hung from the ceiling of the gallery on a simple white wooden coat-hanger with the hood raised next to the installation of my own Grandmother’s Jacobean bed, circa 1940.  In both galleries the cloak drifted of its own violition in a ghostly, gently animated fashion, due to transient air flowing through the galleries.

'Red Riding Hood's Cloak' next to 'The Wolf's House', 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ next to ‘The Wolf’s House’, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

Finally the erect hood not only alludes to the obvious symbolism of male sexuality within the tale of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ but also denotes a suggestion of menace.  Reminiscent of the white cloaks worn during the religious wars and crusades’ of the middle ages, this brings us back full circle to what Freud wrote about man – “our innate tendencies… towards aggression, destruction and cruelty”.  One could argue further that, much of the aggression perpetuated by humankind in the form of war and destruction, has been led by the male of our species.  Females are mostly inclined to be far less aggressive than males.  Are we therefore back to Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” as to an explanation for human aggression, is it part of the unconscious?  Primo Levi said in his answer to the question posed by members of his readership ‘How can the Nazis’ fanatical hatred of the Jews be explained?’ in the afterword of ‘This is a Man and The Truce’“Perhaps one cannot (understand), what is more one must not understand what happened, because to understand is almost to justify”. Surely, in the same light as Premo Levi’s advocation that there are no excuses for what happened, the ‘Collective Unconscious’, does not excuse the damage we cause one another or our environment due to the vast knowledge we have gathered at this stage in our species development?  Our ability to understand this destruction and the fact that we are able as a species to change our engraved behavioural patterns if we want to should advise the prohibition of our worst behaviour.  But perhaps that’s the conundrum with humans, ‘if we want to?’

Artist's own film still 'The Company of Wolves', 2007

Artist’s own film still ‘The Company of Wolves’, 2007

“Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and myth cannot be made out of any science. For it is not that “God” is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man.” Jung

'Doll and Pink Boris', 2011, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken, part of design for 'Red Riding Hood's Cloak' fabric pattern

‘Doll and Pink Boris’, signed and numbered Archival Pigment Print

Luxurious Archival Pigment Prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm from the original Biro drawing of ‘Doll and Pink Boris’ are especially crafted to order by one of the best printmaker’s in the UK Jack Lowe Studio and available from my website shop

'Brown Bunny', 2012 colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Brown Bunny’, signed and numbered Archival Pigment Print

Luxurious Archival Pigment Prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm from the original Biro drawing of ‘Brown Bunny’ are especially crafted to order by one of the best printmaker’s in the UK Jack Lowe Studio and available from my website shop