Saturday, May 17, 2014
Exit, pursued by a hare, or, Odd things in churches (5)
It started with cows. The first CowParade was held in Chicago in 1999. Artists – established or unknown, amateur or professional, young or old – decorated fibreglass cows, which were then placed at strategic places in the city. After a time on display, the cows were corralled in one place and auctioned, funds being donated to charity. Since then there have been CowParade events in many cities all over the world, from New York City to Prague, Istanbul to Rio.
CowParade, a brand owned by CowParade Holdings Corporation, has raised more than $20 million for charity through the auction of cows bearing the work of more than 5,000 artists. Cows are much liked and, with their gentle curves and generous flanks, have proved fulfilling artistic canvases. But there have also been local endeavours, quite separate from CowParade but very much in its spirit. Bath, taking its cue from the presence of the pig in its foundation myth, held an event called King Bladud’s Pigs in 2008. Now comes Cirencester, with hares. Hares because there’s a wonderful hare on a Roman mosaic discovered on a dig in the town in 1971 – it’s now the symbol of the excellent Corinium Museum. The March Hare Festival is not on a huge scale, but Cirencester is no Chicago – 25 hares are scattered around the town, their decoration ranging from ancient Egyptian in style to modernist-inspired, and hare-spotting has become a favourite pastime for locals and tourists alike. Promoting tourism, indeed, is one of the aims of the project, but money from the eventual sale of the hares will be used for environmental and educational projects in and around the town.
So that’s how this hare comes to be in Cirencester’s glorious late-medieval parish church. This particular hare was decorated by the designer and television personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. At first glance, it seems as if the flamboyant Mr Llewelyn-Bowen has produced a rather muted design, in a restrained palate. But look more closely (click on the image to enlarge it) and one discovers that the découpé images applied to the hare are somewhat provocative. More redolent of the boudoir than the church, they’ll cause a few raised eyebrows – and even more smiles. Sonnez la cloche!