“Let there be light”

Every once in a while, one hears or reads something which causes one to make new connections between ideas and images giving new insight into the interrelation between things in the world and thereby illuminating so many other things.

Such was my experience when I heard Makoto Fujimura  being interviewed on Mars Hill Audio.  As I listened to Fujimura I realized that what I never appreciated or understood about so much art is that art – painting, sculpture, music, poem – is about communicating.  The artist has created a language in which to communicate his/her thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, worldview.  To appreciate artistry, one has to think about the art, to decipher the language in order to be able to understand what is being communicated.  Each artistic creation can be a new language created just to convey a particular thought or emotion, or a whole array of ideas and feelings.  I can’t appreciate art because, quite literally, I don’t know what I am looking at; I don’t understand the language, so it remains foreign to me.   It is not only I who need to think and understand the art, for the truly great artist is also communicating, even if in a unique language; which means great art is capable of communicating to others.  It is meant to illuminate. 

Fujimura wrote many of these same ideas in his blog,  Refractions 26:  The Epistle of van Gogh.   In his own reflecting upon the writings and paintings of van Gogh, he came to appreciate the Christian spirituality van Gogh expresses through his visual thinking.     One insight he offers: 

“… there is an “unwholesome split” between reason and visual thinking today. The post-Enlightenment split between reason and intuition, or emotion, casts a shadow into our assumptions today. Theologically speaking, it is precisely this split that caused the gospel to be communicated as information only, a check list of do’s and don’ts, and not as a cohesive life force full of mysteries and multi-sensory stories. Vincent brings them together. The Gospel as preached by St. Francis, would have meant full engagement of the senses, too. The Word becoming Flesh would not make sense otherwise.”

And all of Fujimura’s discussion of art as language, communication, thinking, and seeing and revealing reminded me very profoundly of the Great Creator Artist and Poet God, who used language to communicate and reveal His thoughts and Himself, when He spoke, “Let there be light.”   And there was light. Vocalizing what He envisioned visualized His vocabulary.   Art was born in that very nanosecond of creation.  Not only was there never a time when the Word was not, there was never a time when art (visual thinking) was not.

Beauty will save the world,” opined Dostoyevsky.  And artists and poets will save the Church from being reduced down to rationalism, literalism and moralism, and will help lift our minds and hearts up to God and to escape the restricting constraints they would place on the human spirit and on our aspirations.

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are gods.’”  (John 10:34)

One thought on ““Let there be light”

  1. Pingback: The Christian as Iconographer « Fr. Ted’s Blog

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