Saturday, December 13, 2008

Meaning/Suspicion of Art

"Many religious people, bearing in mind the Second Commandment's prohibition against the making of images, tend to be suspicious of art. Many more have a particular dislike for modern, abstract art. Yet one has only to look at the frost on a windowpane or at dewdrops spangled on a spiderweb, or to study a cloud or a handful of sand, to realize that our Creator God is not only an artist, but an abstract artist par excellence. He seems to have a passionate interest in pure color, in mere line, in sheer energy, and in the fundamentals of texture and shape. He likes geometrical patterns, but He also likes randomness. He enjoys stripes and splashes and dots and whole fields of plain paint. He appears to love form and design for their own sake. Lay down an empty picture frame on your lawn, and you have a work of pure abstraction--that is a painting that represents nothing but itself.

True, the things of nature are not without symbolic power. Grass which 'is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire' (Matt. 6:30), can become a symbol of transcience. But is is also simple grass. Dawn can be a symbol of renewal, but it is also merely dawn. God cannot be called a representational artist, for when He created the world and everything in it He was not copying anything. He was not depicting or representing any other reality, for there was no other reality except Himself. All His creations were but emanations of the inner workings of His own spirit.

This is the way of the abstract artist. While the representational artist attempts to show, more or less acurately, what the eye sees, the abstract artist is not so much interested in what the eye sees as in how it sees...Abstract art is a picture of the inner eye or heart of the one who looks. Or better: it is a picture of the looking itself.

If the abstract artist has one real point of contact with the objective world, it is his medium. The medium itself fascinates him. 'Let there be light!' said god, and in the same way the artist says,
'Let there be paint!' God's question to Job--'What is the way to the abode of light?'--could serve as the ideal motto for the abstract artist, whose whole preoccupation is with the inherent mysteries of light, paint, canvas. To the true abstractionist, paint is like music: precious for its own sake, quite apart from any cognitive meaning. It is like the eyes of someone we love: what do they mean? The very question is demeaning; they mean nothing but themselves. That is, their meaning is too large for expression. It is not that such meaning is vague; rather it is too powerfully particular. As Felix Mendelssohn put it, 'The meaning of music is too specific for words.'

from The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I do like abstract art, but it has to be pretty, like the works you paint. Not ugly. Not expressing somebody's alienation or hostility. That, to me, is therapy, not art. Therapy foisted off onto me, the unwilling voyeur.

It has to be pretty, and with except in the case of small children, it has to display some minimal sort of talent.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Very interesting...I have to think about that...I see what you mean about someone making the viewer an unwilling voyeur--an apt phrase--and there no place in the world for the depiction/presentation of that which is disturbing, such as deep grief or anguish, or even, yes, alienation/anger?

I'm listening!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Sure, there's a place for that, but the question is, When is that art? It's art if (1) there's any talent and (2) if the artist has found any way to lend it beauty. Tschaikovsky's 6th Symphony is grief dressed in sumptuous robes. It's heart-wrenching, yet a feast for the ears and heart.

There is nothing about it that is, for example:
disgusting, repulsive,
slap-dash, disorganized,
cheap, or amateurish.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

I see what you mean.

And I am going to keep thinking about it!