Three Mummers

This is a review I first shared on the Somerset Writers blog:

I’ve been pondering on a mesmerising painting I saw – not in reality but on-line, by the artist David Bez. I’ll share links later so you can see some of David’s work. I came across David via a particular painting he shared on Twitter – it was so arresting, so engaging, and somehow invaded my thoughts so I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it; a story is sure to follow!

The painting which so entranced me is called ‘Three Mummers‘ it’s quite small in real life, 21 x 18 inches and is painted in acrylic and oil on paper; David adds: #Folklore Thursday, customs and rituals (links later). The colours are mostly browns and shades of brown, with some black, and then some cloudy blue skies.

You might guess from the title that there are three mummers, and yes, there are three mysterious figures.  Mummers, in case you don’t know are traditional players also known as guisers, who perform almost ritualistic plays dating back to the middle ages (and probably beyond) Ordinary folk dress up and in bands go round villages, often from pub to pub, enacting these old stories, usually of a fight involving St George but other figures too; someone is killed but revived by The Doctor… There are scenes involving mummers in Thomas Hardy’s Return of The Native, and in Ngaio Marsh’s detective story, ‘Off With His Head’.

The three figures in David Bez’s pictures are difficult to make out… are they actually human? David has painted some other pictures with strange  creatures – maybe people maybe not, in a series called ‘Ceremonies in the Wilderness’.

In the foreground, the land is marked with strange symbols – or are they just natural features which look like symbols and runes? The mid-ground has what looks like a bank with maybe brambles, maybe undergrowth, and a large old tree, gnarled and standing  like a giant Ent. The figures are standing staring at us, on the track either coming towards us, or about to leave, but looking back before they go. Or maybe they will pass along beside the bank and disappear off to the left following the trail. The track goes on behind them, between the Ent-like tree and what might be dead winter brambles… or might not. In the distance a pale peak of a mountain rises, catching the light of dawn or the last light of dusk – or is it not a mountain but a cloud? The sky is darkly cloudy but there are blue patches behind, bright blue. the clouds appear to be moving, moving across the picture towards the right.

The figures, the three figures, tall and strange, upright animals, or human, or half-human? They may all be holding staffs, certainly the one in the centre is. The etiolated one on the left seems to have horns – very straight and pointy, and the only creature I can find with such horns is a type of gazelle, a South African gazelle called a gemsbok. The central figure, more stocky and seeming to be wearing a coat, cloak or smock, appears to have three horns – or is it a hat? His staff is short like a walking stick. The figure on the right is standing a little forward of the others, and he seems to be gesturing, or maybe speaking – but of course in a picture you can’t hear words, only imagine them. Maybe he doesn’t have horns, maybe he has the ears of a hare, in fact his face – what you can make out, almost seems as if it is shaped like the muzzle of a hare.

When I first saw the picture on David’s page on Twitter I stared at the screen for quite a while, and then I commented “So mysterious – are they threatening or do they bring good fortune? Are they leaving or arriving? Standing or dancing?”  Who knows!

Here is a link to David Bez’s Twitter account where you can find this picture:

here is a link to David on Facebook where you can see much more of his work:

other links from David’s tweet:


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