Thursday, April 04, 2013

Imaging the Artist

Here is a little snippet from Edith Schaeffer that was posted over at Christianity Today. I like this. In Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, ND Wilson comments that Christians should have a philosophy of artists and art-appreciators (and it is quite fascinating how he sees much abstract art as an outworking on an atheist worldview eg Jackson Pollock, who tried to remove the artist from the art, or the created from the creator - Pollock himself may have denied "the accident" but it is interesting that one critic describes Pollock's works as “mere unorganized explosions of random energy, and therefore meaningless”, from Wikipedia). Then from the talk I linked yesterday I gleaned the fact that John Calvin apparently believed that the creative capacity of human beings is proof of the existence of the soul (does anyone know where this comes from?).

A Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there. It is true that all people are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.
Edith Schaeffer in The Art of Life.


Andrew said...

Interesting - I've been thinking about abstract art, and Hughes' "The Shock of the New", and this post dovetails nicely.

I'm not sure I agree with the premise that abstract art removes the artist from the work; it would seem to me the opposite, that abstraction is so intensely personal that it fulfills Pollock's statement in a way he perhaps did not intend - that abstract art is meaningless except to the artist, and indeed meaningless to the artist on any but an almost limbic level.

If you look at the progression of Turner's work, there is an interesting sequence - the artist is almost wholly absent from the early Academic paintings, but in mid-career (around the time of the 'Fighting Temeraire') he is standing behind the viewer, with one hand, as it were, on the viewer's shoulder.

Toward the end of Turner's career his paintings became abstractions, not so much of his psyche, but of his earlier framing and palette (and, perhaps, subject matter). I would think that 'Sunrise with Sea-Monsters' is a clear pitch from the 'Salve Ship').

Turner was certainly no Christian, but his work does ache with his fear of God's absence.

Ali said...

Hi Andrew,

Apologies for the delayed response to this. It is a long time since I have studied any sort of art theory, so I am not the best conversationalist on this point.

The truth, either way, is that I am not convinced that art succeeds as art (or visual communication) if what it's supposed to be communicating is not visually clear. If I have to read an essay about a piece of modern art to understand what the artist meant, then it's not working as I see it. Just write the essay. Could the point not still be made that "meaningless" art doesn't image the creator in any way?

That said, I do like Turner! I shall have to take another look at his works.