‘Shh, it’s a Tiger!’ – Amba, Guardian of the Forest

"Shh, it's a Tiger!", Siberian Tiger, 'In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', 2013, black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

“Shh, it’s a Tiger!”, Siberian Tiger, ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, 2013, black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

As part of my china and print series ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’ the first Biro drawing in the Siberian Tiger diptych was inspired by two things – a drawing by an old master and an iconic image of India.

‘Landscape with a Woodland Pool’, Albrecht Dürer, 1496

The synonymous image of a Royal Bengal tiger bathing in a pool in Ranthambore National Park, India with its majestic ruined palaces, was the basis for my Russian fantasy of the Siberian tiger. Albrecht Dürer’s beautiful and beguiling drawing Landscape with a Woodland Pool 1496, a photograph of a forest pool in Ussuriland and Ivan Shishkin’s painting, ‘The Forest of Countess Mordvinova’, 1891, form the inspiration for the background drawing layers, creating the fantastical setting for a bathing Siberian Tiger.

'Countess Mordvinov's Forest (Лес графини Мордвиновой)', Ivan Shishkin, 1891, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

‘Countess Mordvinov’s Forest (Лес графини Мордвиновой)’, Ivan Shishkin, 1891, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

At the edge of the lake sits a Dacha birdcage from my own collection.  Reclining inside is a Siberian tiger, further suggesting the image of Royal Bengal tigers shading inside Indian palaces but also indicating the thousands of tigers kept in captivity in comparison with so few remaining wild tigers.  A giant Siberian tiger sweeps through the forest background, emulating the Udege and Nanai name for the tiger “Amba”, ‘Guardian of the Forest’.  Breaking through the forest is a cavalry of Red Army soldiers symbolising the devastation wreaked on the Siberian Tiger population, which was almost extinguished by both Red and White Armies around Vladivostok during the Russian Revolution.

'Shh, it's a Tiger!', luxury fine English china plate by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Shh, it’s a Tiger!’, luxury fine English china plate by Jane Lee McCracken

On the right walks a tiger beside an Udege woman from a still photograph I took of ‘Amba the Russian Tiger‘, 2008, Gordon Buchanan, proclaiming the fragility of not only the tiger population but the indigenous people of Ussuriland.  The tiger in the pool looks beyond a sniper rifle hidden in the foliage, outside the picture towards ‘Bang!’ the second drawing in the Siberian Tiger diptych.  A skull with a bullet hole depicted in ‘Bang!’ indicates what the tiger in the pool is watching, a tiger hunt!

'In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', Luxury Fine English China Plate Series by Jane Lee McCracken

‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, Luxury Fine English China Plate Series by Jane Lee McCracken


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'Shh, it's a Tiger!', Archival Pigment Print

‘Shh, it’s a Tiger!’, Archival Pigment Print

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From Moscow with Love

'The Russian Doll', red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

The Russian Doll… Back in my home town of Edinburgh in 2005, with money in my pocket and a premeditated mission to visit ‘The Russian Shop’, my target was a Russian doll and successful return to Northumberland the same day with my own matryoshka.

The little shop on St Mary’s Street just off the High Street was overflowing with an impressive array of magnificent Russian dolls, lacquer boxes and wooden toys.  I wanted a special doll, something unique.   All the dolls were wearing coats of glistening varnish, except one which had a matt finish – she had the prettiest face, and on her body was a representation of Ivan Shishkin’s painting ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’, 1889. All her children had Russian landscape paintings on their bodies too and the same pretty face as their mother.  This was my doll!

Russian doll and her four children on 'The Wolf's House', mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

Russian doll and her four children on “The Wolf’s House”, mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

I took her to the counter to pay and the shop owner pointed to a woman I had noticed earlier who was sitting at a small desk painting a lacquer box. “This is the artist who made your doll, she has just flown in from Moscow this morning to give a demonstration of her work”.  Such excitement, such a lovely, gentle woman, we spoke to one another about her art and like a child holding out an autograph book to a living legend, I held out my dolI and asked if she would sign a dedication. “To Jane, with Love, 2005” it says.

'All I have left', 2001

“All I have Left”, 2001

Found objects and my own possessions feature a lot in my work.  I love the simplicity of using what is close at hand, a Biro, my dog Lily, objects I find on Ebay.  Working on  a series of drawings from 2008 called ‘Tales from the East’, I wanted to employ the iconic image of the Russian doll and create my own doll.  I used my Russian/Scottish doll as inspiration and a photograph from 2001 of myself, that was made for a series of digital montages called ‘All I have Left’ .

"Red Riding", All I have left' 2002, digital montage

‘”Red Riding”, All I have Left Series’ 2002, by Jane Lee McCracken, digital montage using artist’s photograph of the Black Forest

Like all my work, the drawing of “The Russian Doll” made with red, blue, green and black Biro acts on several levels and is symbolic of issues relating to war.  The self-portrait layered over the doll’s face, represents ordinary women “like you and me”.

For further information about the symbolism of this piece please visit my website: :http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_4657711.html

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints crafted by http://mrjacklowe.com/  are available from my shop:http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_8181965.html

'The Russian Doll', Archival Pigment Print

“The Russian Doll”, Archival Pigment Print series