Monday, 27 August 2007

The Puzzling Imperative

"An artist explores enlightenment through the natural world.
Unfortunately, the nature, the material of us is often dismissed as ungodly. It's an old concept in our culture that the material world is the work of the devil and to be seeking after God, you have to dismiss this. I think the opposite is really true. The material world is really something both sacred and spiritual, and the artist, if he rejects that, is being driven by cultural forces that are making a mistake. We explore the spiritual through the material".

Artist Roger Dean.

I came across an intriguing entry on another blog* site yesterday.
A couple of friends were enjoying a bike ride and after stopping off for lunch in a diner, they visited an art gallery. One of them became fascinated by the craftsmanship of a large bronze on display (way beyond his budget!), and as the friends left the gallery, the visit began a discussion about what exactly caused us to create the kind of works they had admired.

Why is it that we share a universal 'impulse' to create art that expresses our thoughts and feelings, our relish and delight in the natural world? From a naturalistic (utilitarian) perspective, it is something of a puzzle, but perhaps there is an alternative approach. In the 1960's, Dr Josef Pieper noted in one of his works that "culture depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is not possible unless it has durable and consequently a living link with the 'cultus' - with divine worship" (Leisure - the Basis of Culture). That perspective has often caused me to stop and think , not just about recreation in general, but about the role of art - both in our creation and our enjoyment of it - because we are often making a basic statement - the material (the moment, the experience, the aesthetics) matters.

The Genesis account of creation tells us that on the seventh day, God actually took 'time out' to make that same statement; to look at the created order and be 'refreshed' by His own work. The moment was so good that God 'hallowed' it - literally made it 'holy' (set apart to Him), and the day itself actually became a 'type' of something that was to come. That pleasure in the visual and tactile beauty of the world is given to our parents. Adam is called on to 'name' (understand) the animal world and to tend a garden in Eden. The role of Man and Woman was woven with immediate and enduring artistry - a 'hands on' relationship to spirituality. The 'ache' that this imperative creates (as touched on by Solomon - Ecclesiastes 3:11), amplified by all that is naturally enchanting around us, often finds a moment of clarity when we view the beauty of the human form, or a sunset, or a work of art - it points us to worship.

Beyond days scarred by pain and death, that first 'sabbath' still whispers something vital -
the physical order does not find its resolve in the primal moments of origin, or in a paradise that was lost, or in the world as we now see it, or our current mortality. There is a new 'day' to dawn, when we will see a perfection, a fusion between desire, expression and divinity that will truly refresh and renew existence at the deepest level. The artist who fashioned us has deemed it, that all our truest longings may find an extraordinary realization.

Something to think about, next time you admire a work of art....

(*Reference to Barry A's entry, 'Musings on the Creative Impulse' on the Uncommon Descent blog page = ).

No comments: