There is every type of fable: but there is only one moral to the fable: because there is only one moral to everything.
– G.K. Chesterton
Throughout our modern history Aesop’s fables have resonated in every spectrum of human society. Aesop’s fables were first compiled into a set of books by ancient Greek orators. Since then the fables have been retold, reutilised and reimagined in modern culture, literature and in art by such prominent figures as Marc Chagall and Alexander Calder.
After some 26 centuries of story-telling – the last six of which have had the added dimension of illustrations – artist Ray Ching has given the fable tradition an entirely new location and cast. Aesop’s fables have left their origins in Greece and ancient Europe and set off to the distant isles of New Zealand.
Now, the anecdotes are told by the inhabitants of these islands – mostly birds, who are called to take the place of the more familiar players. The Fox, Crow, Tortoise and Eagle of old find new Antipodean counterparts to play out their roles: domestic cats now jump to the grapes, Tui are as smart as Crows, and ancient Tuatara is as dogged as the Tortoise to successfully win his race in time over the Possum.
A new publication accompanies this exhibition; Aesop’s Kiwi Fables: Paintings by Ray Ching, with an introduction by Richard Wolfe. Hardback book with 228 pages and a french fold jacket, featuring 47 paintings by Ray Ching. Colour, ISBN 9781869538453, $48 plus postage and handling.