Michael Leunig's Holy Fool

Leunig

The cartoonist-philosopher-artist Michael Leunig finds modern meaning in the Easter story in his latest book called Holy Fool - a collection of his art, writes Madonna Magazine.

Holy Fool: Artworks, by Michael Leunig, (Allen & Unwin).

- Madonna Magazine

Leunig's title recalls the rich imagery associated with the holy fool in religious history. In all religious traditions, people who dedicated their lives to holiness were often branded as mad, living their lives on the fringes of society.

Many of the prophets were counted as such, as was Jesus himself. His actions often confused and angered onlookers, particularly some of the religious authorities of his day. As Paul put it: 'It was God's own pleasure to save believers through the folly of the gospel ... we preach a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness ... God's folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength' (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).

In Holy Fool, Michael Leunig notes how the figure of the holy fool appears throughout his work:

'A corny cartoon character. A nature-loving fool. A sensitive soul. A free spirit. A joyous innocent. A shabby wanderer. A dawdling playful simpleton ... a humble being who stands in sharp contrast to the common aspirations of contemporary urban humanity.'

We all carry a part of that fool within us, Leunig says, and it is often recognised in the creative effort of the artist—'an intuitive attempt to recover the capacity for wonder, spontaneity, playfulness, mindfulness and access to raw beauty, qualities so natural and easy in childhood: a search for connection to one's lost little fool.'

Many of the human characters who appear in his cartoons, and his art, present different aspects of the holy fool. The image on the front cover sums it up: a joyous free spirit sharing the space of the picture with flowers and birds. His image of the 'Pilgrim' (p. 153) echoes this joy, and another traveller, in 'Laughing at God's Little Joke' (p. 171) joins the whole of creation in the joke.

Throughout the book, so many of his images express delight in life, joy in the natural world, highlighted by the rainbow colours and expressive, dancing lines and shapes. It is a beautiful collection from one of our most creative artists.

And at the heart of artistic creativity, Leunig says, is the experience of failure and redemption.

Read full article: Staying in the suffering - Michael Leunig (Madonna Magazine)

MORE:

Joyous Innocence (The Sydney Morning Herald)

The whimsical world of Michael Leunig (ABC Radio National Books and Arts Daily)

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