Friday, May 25, 2012


When I Was A Child I Dreamt I could Fly  Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2004

Last week I took myself off to the movies. Yes, alone. None of my kids wanted to see this particular movie! Can you believe it?! The movie was 'The Avengers' I bought myself a chocolate covered ice cream and settled into my seat. I loved the movie. Yes, I am a fan of fantasy action packed cinema.
But, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the improbable feats of bravery and bravado, I left the cinema feeling a touch of sadness. Why?

Well...if movies reflect society's underlying beliefs, demeanors, spirit and confidence, this film, for me anyway, revealed much about society's despondency, feelings of lack of strength and direction...that 'things', such as global economic degradation, ongoing wars, global warming, cost of living etc,  are just too big for mere human kind to overcome, let alone solve. So, unlike in most other super hero films, where there is normally one heart throbbing super hero saving the day, this film 'The Avengers' is about a cluster of super heroes conscripted to save life on Earth from nighmare-ish alien cyborgian- reptilian like monsters which are allowed to escape from a portal to another universe-like place, mythological Asgard. These monsters are the soldiers of a really bad guy called Loki, a character borrowed from Norse mythology. He is the adopted son of Odin, a ruler of Asgard. He was raised by Odin as a son, alongside his biological son Thor.  

Yes, and Thor is also one of the super heroes, who is pitted against his adopted brother. Thus, we have the age-old Abel and Cain-like story weaving through the action. Thor is joined by Captain America, Ironman, Black Widow, and The Hulk. Each joins the team with some initial reluctance, but their recruiter, legendary director of the peace keeping organisation S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury convinces them, at the same time as coercing and over-riding edicts from what appears to be some kind of global government committee. As a team, with some endearing dysfunction, the super heroes save the world with might, strength, some intellect, authority, larrikanism and humour.

After thinking about my feeling of sadness, I realised that maybe this film is a reflection of society's general malaise about the seeming enormity of problems facing the planet and its inhabitants ie: us. Indeed, modern media has a 'wonderful' way of infiltrating not only our lounge rooms, but also our psyches with constant reportage of mayhem and disaster across all aspects of life. It's exhausting! 'The Avengers' tells me that as a human race... a global society... we want to be saved, we are yearning to be saved, by heroes. But, then again, maybe this is a normal reaction to feeling of being on the brink, given that our ancestors of eons ago, believed in the powers of mythological Gods and Goddesses. When we don't know what to do we resort to mythology! But, maybe this is not as delusional as it may initially appear to be. Maybe superheroes, myth and legend spark a primal element within us which rejuvinates our energies, forces us to look at different perspectives, rekindles faith...maybe?

The character of Nick Fury, whilst not a super hero, is a pivotal grounding human presence. He is tough, he is brave, he is a 'real' leader. I think his defiance of the 'government committee' which only appeared a few times in massive overhead screens, is heroic in itself. His character represents a yearning for leadership, for someone to make inspired decisions, for someone to facilitate and enable super heroes! And, just maybe...just maybe...given the right circumstances and leadership, you and I could be a 'super heroes' too. 

It is a shame that only one of the super heroes was a female. Maybe they could have sqeezed in another? Or even had Thor's mother Gaea sweep her Earth Mother magic across the land, especially after the destruction wrought by the end-of-film battle between the forces of good and bad. But, where would that place a sequel, which is hinted at during the credits at the end of the film? 

I have uploaded the painting above, because it was inspired by my childhood dreams of flying. 'When I Was A Child I Dreamt I Could Fly' has a figure of a girl, propelled by red energy forces, flying above the Earth, accompanied by the moon. Yes, I did have 'flying' experiences. Indeed, even though I had never been in a plane above my parent's farm, I knew what the farm buildings, yards, silos and water tanks, gardens and roads looked like from above. When I watch movies like 'The Avengers' and see characters such as Thor and Ironman flying, I 'know' exactly how it feels!!! Really!

As a child, I had all sorts of fantasies about saving the world, from being a gutsy fighter pilot to being an intrepid missionary, to being a famous scientist! What were your fantasies?

Below are a couple of other paintings which depict flying. Both these paintings show a bride flying above a landscape. I don't think she is a super hero, but hey who knows?

 Flying Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2003

Living With Distance Oil on linen 120 x 160 [diptych]



Audubon Ron said...

Funny you should mention. Just tonight my wife and I were talking about how really bad Hollywood is these days. Have we seen the end of Hollywood magic? Yes, the economy sucks and so does world peace, but it always sucked at some level of suckage or another. Even the music sucks. One might think could be the beginning of a new renaissance. Thank goodness we still have a few really good visual artists around. ;)

Gillian King said...

I agree that contemporary movies often reflect an inner emotional truth about the wider world. And your reading of The Avengers rings true to me.

I was first struck by this emotional resonance in the two Terminator movies. The first was made when Soviet Russia was locked in competition with the West and the film ended with a sense that destruction of human society was an inevitable fate. The second film was made after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it ended with an open road where the future was not dictated by fate.

Cinema gives us some wonderful stories, and I see no end to their magical capacity to express the zeitgeist in creative and unexpected ways.

You may be interested in my blog where I use metaphor to discuss climate change and the transition to a sustainable, low carbon future.

Love your paintings!

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Thank you Gillian. I agree with your comments about the Terminator movies. I am interested in seeing your blog, but when I click on your name/photo it says your profile is not public. Could you please send a link. Cheers,