Parliament of Fowles 2: Rooks (2018, wax on paper)

In this lively evocation of a noisy, busy treetop rookery the ‘Parliament’ of the series title takes on a more localised meaning, as the collective noun for rooks (corvus frugilegus) is in fact a ‘Parliament’, referring to the folk myth that the birds hold communal court sessions to adjudicate on the theft by houseproud rooks of twigs from neighbouring nests to strengthen their own.

In our age of political turmoil, the rooks resonate closer to home. Is our human Parliament a a solemn gathering of trusted delegates for the people or a rabble of birds squabbling over twigs? Is it sovereign? As globalisation advances, what does sovereignty – that elusive quality at the heart of much recent political division – mean to us anyway? The artist’s parliament of rooks seems both bathetic in its parochialism and yet also a poignant call to greater political participation from all of us. We are invited, maybe, to turn away from political tribalism toward a recognition that we are all rooks, and thus the parliament of rooks concerns us all.

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