“What” I asked Fleydon “are we to make of ‘Raiders of the Rymans’? To me it looks like a populist attempt to cash in on a summer blockbuster film. It is not a work that has added to your critical renown, but you insisted that it be included in the exhibition. Why was that?”
Fleydon turned and faced me full on, fixed me with a firm stare and placed an arm on my shoulder. ”This work” he said quietly “caused me more angst, sweat and anxiety than any other. It is a work brimming with religious significance. If you look closely you can see the revisions, the changes the sheer frustration etched on the canvas. This is no pot-boiler, money-making attempt to fleece innocents but a cri-de-coeur.
I love this picture as only a parent can love a sick child. It struggles, and the cruel world laughs but they laugh at an allegory for the very club itself – Wimbledon rising, born again, a glorious resurrection!. Look, in religious painting the skull represents the transitory nature of life – in here it reflects the transitory passing of a club itself – the death knell of Wimbledon FC. The crossed bones often refer to the cross at Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull’, a place of death, but ultimately of hope and resurrection – the feathers are attributed to St Barbera’s home town of Heliopolis, the birthplace of the fabulous Phoenix – the golden yellow of the cloth represents the sun whose re-birth brings such joy to the world.
The grin of the skull? That obviously shows a triumph over death, a laugh in its face as it were. The scroll at the bottom is often used to represent old testament prophet’s who record wondrous prophesy - and what better prophesy than that of our beloved team writ large? And finally the hat – not a tricorn as many assume, but a black biretta, symbol of the priest who has the power to comfort and provide a path to salvation. And what emblem is depicted on that biretta? The two-headed eagle of Caesar who ‘came, saw and conquered’ – perfect!”
He stood back from the flag, tears in his eyes and emotion gripping his body. “My god what a flag - it has it all, the whole wondrous story on one sheet. THAT is the depth of emotion, of feeling and passion embodied in this picture, not some rip-off of a movie. That attitude makes me spit! Football is my religion, AFC Wimbledon is my denomination and the Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium Kingsmeadow is my church. And we will rise again, mark my words!”
As Fleydon’s face contorted with anger we paused for a while to allow the passion to subside. “And the legend ‘Raiders of the Rymans’ I asked, "does that have any religious significance?” “No, none…” he admitted “but my agent felt it would make it more attractive as a potential t-shirt design – at least until we are promoted.” He gave out a deep, bellow of a laugh “Of course I might be long gone by then! Clubs might be resurrected, but I doubt I will!”
Composition in Blue and Green (“Raiders of the Rymans”) is appearing courtesy of the Disney Corporation.