Uffe Christoffersens Gl. Lejre udstilling 2005.

Galleri Gl. Lejre

15th January – 5th march 2005

Tigers and Fables

20 paintings inspired by Jean de la Fontaine



          Tiger fables is a common title I have given to my water colours which are inspired by 20 of Jean de la Fontaine’s fables. It is only a small selection from his very great works from the 17th century.

Through a deep study of these selected fables I experienced how profound their content was, and I was moved to interpret them in my own way. And they became paintings…

During my work with the animal fables I have had many experiences in relation to the world we live in. They are partly the great international political problems, and partly the intimate daily situations, which I have experienced in a different way seen in the light of the fables….

To get as close as possible to the original text I have read it in the original language. That is ancient French, but it was lucky for me that Anna Christoffersen made a translation into Danish, as well as writing a short text to each picture. La Fontaine’s fables were originally written in verse and are often very cryptic, almost surrealistic. There are ambiguities in the selection of animals; they can have different symbolic meanings than they have in a Danish context.

Through the numerous drawings and water colours I have done in the last 9 months, I have moved further and further into my own world of fables. Thus the Lion has become the Tiger.

I have consciously chosen certain fables which make up an “animal of prey’s” lifetime, taken together. The water colour “The Tiger” is inspired by the fable called “Le Lion” which is about a lion cub growing up and the other animals’ attitude to it during its growth. The water colours “The Tiger goes to War”, “The Tiger and the Donkey out Hunting”, “The Tiger’s Court” and others have taken their inspiration from “Le lion s’allant en guerre”, “Le lion et l’ane chassant”, “La cour de lion” and are about the grown-up tiger and its relationship to the other animals relative to their different mentalities. Finally there is “The Tiger who got old” (Le lion devenu vieux) which depicts the aging tiger experiencing how the other animals humiliate it.

In all the fables it is constantly a question of who is the strongest, and treats the psychological game between animals….or human beings. However it is not always about who is the largest, as seen in the fables “Le lion et le moucheron” and “Le lion et le rat”. They have inspired the water colours “The tiger and the gadfly” and “The Tiger and the Rat”.


Uffe Christoffersen

The poems associated with the fables below have been written by
Anne Christoffersen

 

The Tiger and the donkey out hunting
  

When hunting, a tiger and a donkey can work together.
The donkey’s heehawing is a great halloo shout.
But you’ve never seen a hunting horn claim that it has brought down the prey

Tigeren og Æslet. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger and the donkey. 100 x 81 cms  2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Cow, the Goat and the Sheep together with the Tiger

We share like tigers do:
One share to the ruler
One share to the tiger
One share to the strongest
One share to the greedy
So the tiger gets the lot!

Kvien, Geden og Fåret i selskab med Tigeren. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Cow, the Goat and the Sheep together with the Tiger. 100 x 81 cms  2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger, the Monkey and the two Donkeys.

When the tiger asked around to find out how one should look at self-satisfaction,
the monkey told him about the two donkeys: one praised the other because he was a donkey!

 

Tigeren, Aben og de to Æsler. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger, the Monkey and the two Donkeys. 100 x 81 cms 2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

 The Tiger and the Hunter

A boastful person thinks his best friend is inside a tiger.
He wants revenge. One look at the animal gives him second thoughts.

Tigeren og jægeren. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

 The Tiger and the Hunter. 55 x 46 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Horoscope

The lonely person who knows that the tiger will be his fate,
Goes to his grave, wounded by a nail, on which there hangs a picture of a tiger.

-Horoskopet. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Horoscope. 55 x 46 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger and the She-bear

When a mother loses her child it is a shame.
When a tigress loses her cub, it is definitely fate pursuing her.
But look at yourself, - maybe you are a tigress.

 

Tigeren og Hunbjørnen. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger and the She-bear. 55 x 46 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tigress’s Funeral

It is immoral to flatter the dead.
To lie to the mourners about angels singing and salvation is disgusting.
But what should one do – when the widower is a tiger and you are a deer yourself?

Tigerindens begravelse. 46x 55  cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tigress’s Funeral. 46x 55  cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The sick Tiger and the Fox

The tiger asks the animals to visit his sick bed. The fox does not come.
The other guests’ footprints all lead the same way, into the tiger’s belly.

Den Syge Tiger og Ræven. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The sick Tiger and the Fox. 100 x 81 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

Odysseus’ crew

Odysseus’ crew were changed into animals.
By cunning the hero was able to change them back to their natural shape,
But who says that it is better to be a human than an animal?
Not Odysseus’ crew: they preferred their new shapes.

Odysseus mandskab. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

Odysseus’ crew. 100 x 81 cms 2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Shepherdess and the Tiger

A shepherd had lost a sheep.
He laid out some wolf traps and laughed arrogantly.
When a tiger fell into a trap he laughed on the other side of his face.

Hyrden og tigeren. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Shepherdess and the Tiger. 55 x 46 cms 2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger killed by a human

Many pictures depict tiger hunting, always to the human’s advantage.
As the tiger himself says: The subject matter would be completely different if tigers could paint.

Tigeren dræbt af mennesket 154 x 200 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger killed by a human. 154 x 200 cms 2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger’s Court

His tigerly highness holds court in his cave full of carcasses.
The bear holds his nose.
The monkey praises the ‘perfume’
The fox has a cold.
The fox survives.

Tigerens hof 200 x 154 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger’s Court.  200 x 154 cms    2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger and the Rat

A ruler who is good towards even the smallest creature will receive ten-fold in return.
Even a rat can help.

Tigeren og Rotten. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger and the Rat. 100 x 81 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Donkey disguised as a Tiger

A donkey in a tiger skin creates panic.
But when a piece of ear pokes out, a tiger hunt begins…

Æslet klædt i Tigerens skind.

The Donkey disguised as a Tiger.  55 x 46 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger

Leopard the Sultan is not afraid of his neighbour the tiger. It is just a cub.
He is forgetting that cubs grow up.

Tigeren. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred. 2004.

The Tiger. 100 x 81 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger who grew old

An old tiger must put up with many things.
But when the donkey joins the choir of scornful subjects, it is the final straw!

Tigeren som var blevet gammel. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger who grew old. 100 x 81 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger, the Wolf and the Fox

When the tiger is sick, the court is happy. They can all strut about.
The wolf remarks the absence of the fox.
The fox arrives and extols the virtues of a healing wolf skin.

Tigeren, Ulven og ræven. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger, the Wolf and the Fox. 100 x 81 cms   2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

The Tiger who went to War

When the tiger is going to war, everyone must take part.
From the stupidest donkey to the smallest hare.

Tigeren som gik i krig. 100 x 81 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred

The Tiger who went to War. 100 x 81 cms    2004. Olie på lærred

 

 

The Tiger in Love

For love the tiger gets its teeth and claws filed down: then it is gentle
To its beloved….
But also to its executioners.

Den forelskede Tiger. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred

The Tiger in Love. 55 x 46 cms    2004. Olie på lærred

 

 

The Tiger and the Gad-fly

A gad-fly is an irritating creature. It can even drive a tiger mad.
Some people think it even enjoys it. It is a different kettle of fish when it is stuck in the spider’s web.

 

Tigeren og Tordenfluen. 55 x 46 cm. 2004. Olie på lærred.

The Tiger and the Gad-fly. 55 x 46 cms  2004. Oil on canvas.

 

 

Red Mountain Cinnabar
 

 

Red
      
The colour red is universally known as a symbol of the principle of life because of its intensity. But red, the colour of blood and fire, also has a symbolic ambiguity that depends on whether the red is light or dark.
Light, clear red, which is intense and extroverted, belongs to the day. It is fresh and invites action by projecting its light onto the world, like an enormous and invincible sun. It attracts. It is this colour which I used in the painting "The Tiger and the Donkey Hunting Together", inspired by Aesop’s fable ”The Wild Donkey and the Lion”:

 


A tiger and a donkey are perfect hunting companions.

The donkey’s braying makes an excellent hunting signal.

But nobody ever heard a hunting horn claim that it had brought down the game itself.


    

A really dark red, on the other hand, is of the night, secretive and almost introverted. It is the symbol of the mystery of life. It warns, restrains. It is the colour of the forbidden, of the lamps of the old red-light districts. This is the colour I used in the painting "Odysseus’ Companions", inspired by Jean de la Fontaine’s version of the myth, where Circe transformed Odysseus’ friends into different kinds of animals with her potion:


Odysseus’ companions were transformed.

Through cunning he won them the right to be transformed back again.

But who said that it is better to be human than an animal?

Certainly not Odysseus’ companions: they preferred their new animal forms.

 



    
I have always thought that there was something missing in the red artists’ colours that you can buy nowadays. When you look at sunlight through a glass of red wine an infinite number of nuances of colour appear, from the deepest shades of red to a bright red that jumps out at you with the energy of a turbojet.
How can I get to a deep red which is not a dark cadmium red, a rose carmine or an imitation red cinnabar, but a rich red that feels right artistically and at the same time is more ambiguous than the simple synthetic colours that are everywhere?

 

Cinnober 

It is here that red natural cinnabar comes into the picture. The largest and most important source of this mineral is in southern Spain, where it has been extracted and made into pigment since ancient times. It was used for the frescoes of Pompeii, and it was used early in the Renaissance with Lapis Lazuli and gold to create the icons of the Sienna School.

The process of extracting the mineral and transforming it into pigment was very expensive, and this is why a substitute was sought, just as alternatives have been sought for lots of other colours throughout history.
The process of producing a synthetic cinnabar red was begun in the Arab world in the 7th and 8th centuries. They mixed mercury and pulverised sulphur and heated this to 600°C, thus producing a uniform red pigment that they could use in their art.


    
By placing several pieces of unworked natural cinnabar crystals together and studying them under lighting conditions which ranged from bright sunlight to deep shadow, I could see how the clear red surfaces that were illuminated reflected their colours onto the surfaces of the crystals that were in shadow. This made the colours in the shadows change to a much richer, fuller red instead of being just a normal flat shadow colour.

          These rich reds can be achieved by mixing pigments together. I do it simply by mixing synthetic cinnabar red (vermilion) pigment with other colours. In order to make a clean colour that can be used as both a light and a dark red, I add white, yellow, red ochre, alizarin crimson or madder, according to how warm or cold I want the red to be. Then I paint the red on top of, for example, a cold green, a lemon yellow or another colour. This brings the red alive. I never use red on red, however, as this kills it completely. 

 

Uffe Christoffersen,
Fontarèches 2004-12-07
 

 

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