Then Mr. Parsons lowered his axe
Dougal Fraser
Collection: In Bloom

alkyd on canvas
750 x 1000mm

image copyright D. Fraser

A stereotypical New Zealand bloke is set in a stereotypically centralised composition. But the brand name “Phallus” on the axe handle contradicts the idea that this is nostalgia for a pioneering past. All the imagery in the painting is gendered and works against stereotype.
What made Mr. Parsons stop? We don’t know because we can’t see what he’s looking at. His posture and the landscape playing on archetypal imagery depict one of those epiphanic moments that project us beyond ourselves into something much greater than expected.
The axe, seemingly attached to Mr. Parsons’ body, is an extension of his masculinity, not aggressively raised but lowered and at rest. Phallic pines rise above him. He has been dominating the setting in a masculine way – using physical force to chop it up, in competition with the pines.
A stream crosses the landscape, making it fertile. In archetypal imagery, water is a metaphor for the unconscious mind. The land is an archetype for femininity because all the surrounding life has been born from it.
Arum lilies follow the stream. Their flowers contain a phallus within the sheath of the petal: a union of masculine and feminine. Perhaps this is the breakthrough that has occurred to Mr. Parsons. Whatever he has seen has made him whole. He doesn’t need to prove his power any more by chopping up the landscape.
Mr. Parsons is letting go of being a macho Kiwi bloke and isn’t frightened by this. Instead he is becoming fully human.

Then Mr. Parsons lowered his axe