The collage above is the piece I've contributed to an exhibition that will appear at venues in France and England when "Sir Lanval," a film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group, premiers this autumn. It's all part of the Shared Legends Project, a collaboration between the CFG here in Devon and the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany.
Ten French artists and ten Devon-based artists were asked to contribute works based on "Sir Lanval," a 12th century lay by Marie de France about a poor Arthurian knight and a beautiful fairy queen. I struggled for inspiration at first, for my art these days is a long ways away from Arthurian castles and knights in armor. . . but Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (the film's director) assured me that they weren't looking for illustrations of the film, but rather wanted each artist to interpret the lay and depict fairyland in his or her own personal style. In other words, they'd known they would get a "Windling" and not a "Burne-Jones" or an "Alan Lee" when they asked me. Whew!
I originally sketched out some ideas for paintings, but then my thoughts turned to collage instead. There are many other painters in the show (along with sculptors, dollmakers, and other artists), and I thought perhaps one of my hand-sewn assemblages might be useful in striking a slightly different note. I collect old damaged books of myths and fairy tales as source material for my collages (I wouldn't want to rip up a book otherwise) -- and you can imagine my delight when I found a retelling of "Sir Lanval" in one of them. Perfect! Considering the obscurity of the tale, this felt like a gift from the fairies themselves and made me feel I was on the right track.
I chose the scene in which two fairy handmaidens appear in a meadow, carrying a golden basin and a towel. Later in the tale, we learn that the fairy queen rides with greyhounds, so I put a somewhat comical fairy greyhound in there too. And some bunny girls, because in my version of fairyland there are animal critters who follow in the fairies' wake. The twigs and pressed wildflowers come from the meadow behind my studio. The lace comes from my mother-in-law, a theatrical costume maker, who was busily sewing medieval costumes for the film while I was working on my piece.
Four of my village neighbors have also contributed to the exhibition: Alan Lee, Brian & Wendy Froud, and Rima Staines. You can see a preview of Rima's gorgeous, gorgeous Sir Lanval paintings over on her blog, and read a fascinating post about how she created them. For more information on the show itself, go here. There will be a "Meet the Artist" event in Brittany in July; I'll post more information about that as it becomes available.