Returning to Narnia

My parents had a wonderful old cedar closet in their bedroom. It was so large that you could climb inside it and close the doors. After I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the age of seven or so, that’s exactly what I did. I had yet to grow so tall that I couldn’t tuck my knees under and stare out through the crack in the doors. Try though I might, I could never seem to find the way to Narnia. I would bump around my way through the dark, intoxicated with the smell of cedar, half suffocated in the folds of rayon and silk and wool, to rap and tap on the back of the closet.

 

I never found my way through the wardrobe, never met Mr. Tumnus by the lamp post, never chased a talking lion through the woods. And no, I was never Queen of Cair Paravel.

 

But to this day, occasionally, when I glimpse the wardrobe, which now stands in my own bedroom…I can’t help but wonder if today is the day I’ll return to Narnia.

3 Question View – Paul Ramey

This post is the first of a new series, highlighting talented artists whose work I admire.

I call it ‘3 Question View’ because it’s limited to three questions (Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three) and it’s a rather truncated inter-view, designed to elicit three compelling answers from each artistic mind.



Three Question View – Paul Ramey, Surya Namaskar

Anna:
This video for Surya Namaskar features a lot of unique, handmade elements, stars on the fingertips and hand-painted backdrops. What was your inspiration for this style?

Paul:

I was at work and doodling, wondering how to transfer this new song to video. I wanted to incorporate a sky motif, with the rising of the sun. I didn’t have much of a budget and wanted it to be different and clever enough that video might go viral. We had no time to do animation, so we decided to go simplistic. I thought how funny it would be to have stars on the end of fingers, dancing.

Hands are such a basic human part and express so much. It was very fun to do physically; Haley and Tina loved getting their hands painted, hiding behind cardboard, playing the stars to manifest the sky.  The crescent moon rises and the stars tremble and pull away from the moon.

Surya Namaskar is Salute to the Sun or Sun Salutation in yoga. We were taking yoga at the time and our attitude was one of gratitude yet playful, to greet the song with joy and not hammer it into place, to go towards the feel.

Anna: 
The imagery of veils and the hidden seems to be a recurring theme in your work. How did it develop in this video?

Paul:
We wanted to capture day and night and the transition; both are entities here. We wanted to express especially the veils of night, veils hiding what you can’t see. I didn’t want Tina or Haley to be people, just one aspect of the sky.

Tina plays the role of Night, giving way, and Haley was the Rising Sun. Both have their veils and represent the yin-yang of the sky; some things are hidden no matter what side you’re on. The veils conceal and reveal.

Anna:
Who and what was the muse behind this song?

Paul:
I had just moved off a big project, Veil and Subdue, which played with night and dreams and hidden aspects. After that, I wanted to do something more upbeat, techno, positive and accessible. I have this ongoing fascination with Middle Eastern music and iconography. I bought a new computer program that opened a new world with sounds we could pull in – wonderful exotic sounds, to capture the flavor I wanted.

Also, during the filming we knew that Tina was pregnant and that definitely influenced our awareness as we were creating it – it was a new day, our new daughter.


Enjoy Surya Namaskar:

This post dedicated to Sofia Ramey, who will no doubt consider her dad the nerdiest, coolest thing ever.


Paul’s Links:

I’ll Be Wearing Ribbons Down My Back This Summer…

It occurred to me yesterday that I was all wrong. For years, I have been saying (like many I know, similarly disaffected) that I live my life like I am from another century. That’s not true. I exist in a century that -doesn’t- exist, a made-up amalgam of customs and courtesies and costumes.

I prefer hand-written letters (16-19th), use powder of violets (18th), dress for work in pencil skirts and pumps like a secretary from the 50s (20th), listen to opera from the 19th century and symphonies from the 18th.

I avoid television, write stories longhand, wear ribbons in my hair and fret when people tease me about it. I study etchings and engravings, dream about writing a Paul Helleu catalog raisonne and a book about Austen’s life. At work, there’s a running joke that Anna goes home on Friday night and reads Shakespeare…which is occasionally true.

I am hopelessly sentimental, read poetry aloud, cry unabashedly at movies, wear my heart on my sleeve so any idiot passing by can poke a hole in it. It comes down to a longing for a time that never existed in the first place.

This fairytale of a prettier, gentler time…I blame it on too many Merchant-Ivory films, on too many Austen books, too many Wilde and Coward plays, too many musicals with happy endings…a diet of comedy of manners and soft-spoken romances.

I know very well that if I had been alive at that time (usually the 18th or the 19th century) and privileged, I would be a very different person. Yes, I could sit alone in the elegant splendour of my drawing room. I could spend my days writing letters and playing the piano, sewing (well, maybe not) and spending hours on my toilette to make myself as decorative as possible (in contrast with the days that I wad my hair in a bun).

I could also not vote, not own property, not even necessarily own myself in the sense that I could marry as I please. The corset of my life would tighten around me until I could not even breathe, as the choices dwindled to nothing. The constraint of manners and societal expectations can be a smothering one.

Not that the exact opposite is necessarily desirable. I occasionally refer to ‘basic human courtesy’, which may be a contradiction in itself. Humanity always has its dull, cruel, ugly and disenchanting aspects. Manners are the armor in which each century cloaks itself and our century has shown up like the Emperor without clothes.

The noise, the brutal noise, of everyday life has been hammering at me lately. The jackhammer working on the bridge, the piercing voice of the passing trolley guide, the obnoxious roarings of a cavalcade of motorcycles, the sawing and the shouting. After the leaf blowers and the stentorian church bells and the car alarms, I just want to go in my room and plug my ears with my fingers.

Since I cannot hide, I just have to accept. For now.

I may at some point have to go off where real life cannot find me. You may stumble upon me some day there, tucked in a little cottage in some wild countryside, living out my life in the century that -I- want to be in…with ribbons in my hair.

[Repost – ed.]