Persuasive Art

Art is one of the great unexplored areas for use in evangelism….Picasso said that ‘art is the lie that leads to the truth’. Human beings are artists, because we are made in the image of the great artist. By taking a broad sweep of modern European art (with particular reference to Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Chagall) we want to show how art sometime reflects the culture and sometimes creates the culture. Because it asks questions, pictures emotions and attempts to deal with the deepest spiritual questions, contemporary European mindset and culture. Can we use it to give Europeans a window into the gospel?

This short talk is from ELF – in 2013

 

Ozzie Observations – Week 6 – The Artist has no Clothes – What the NSW Art Gallery tells us about Australia and the Westo

One thought on “Persuasive Art

  1. I didn’t listen to your talk yet David, because it is early and I cannot play something out loud and either wake people up or draw attention to myself. Because if my husband knew I was reading your blog at 4:17 a.m. it would confirm to him that I had indeed ‘lost the plot’ and, like a kid caught on their phone or ipad in the wee small hours, my toy, i.e. the laptop, would be confiscated indefinitely. But for some reason, I awoke early, and the driving thought, compelling me to action at this time, was that David, you seem to consistently highlight the precise point where the lines are drawn in the battle between belief and unbelief, and your visit to Australia seems to have given you another unique window of opportunity to do so. (Unless I misunderstand him, John Kilpatrick doesn’t like the term ‘battle’ but what I am referring to is the ‘spiritual’ battle). I’m also really hoping to get my comment/essay in ‘before’ Arkenaten this time!
    So my ignorant, uninformed, impulsive , ‘shoot from the hip’ response to the idea you have raised, and spoken about in your talk above (which I have not listened to yet) stating: “we want to show how art sometimes reflects the culture and sometimes creates the culture” is, that ‘reflecting the culture or creating a culture’ would not be useful for the purposes of propagating Christian knowledge a.k.a. ‘evangelism’ because culture is not created in a vacuum; it is the expression of the spiritual state of the people. It is not art that is the useful tool for evangelism but instead ‘creativity’. But let me qualify this even further; it is creativity for the glory and purposes of God. Last time I went to the gallery of modern art in Glasgow, about 20 years ago, the ‘art’ I saw, if it reflected the state of the spirituality of the people, would have declared that people were hopeless and and frighteningly irrational and disturbed. One installation: a baby doll with haunted soul-less eyes, in a meat mincer, who’s head was still sticking out the top but whose legs had been minced and coming out as ‘bloodied minced meat’ is an alarming, vile, image that will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. There was a lot of blood in that exhibition and my stomach turns still at the mere recollection of it. The other installations were obviously so meaningless as to be forgettable, except for the description, o a drab blue blobby blotchy painting, by my 7 year old nephew who said; “this one here is called “untitled”, but I have a good name for it, “rubbish art work”! The adults in the group all had a good laugh at this and it showed me that the child had more creativity and intelligence than the ‘so called’ artist and more purity and courage than us adults there, who questioned if we really ‘got it’ and were too afraid to say that a painting is judged by what you ‘see’ not the concept which you can’t see because in the case of the blobby blotchy blue one, the concept was still in the mind of the ‘artist’ as they hadn’t managed to convey it to the ‘beholder’ at all . At times of spiritual barrenness and darkness something ‘beautiful’ can give us hope by stirring up the thought that there is ‘surely something more’ than what we see. But the minced doll image above could neither be described as art or beautiful and therefore would compound hopelessness leading to : despair. The ‘mind control’ brigade would viciously have us think, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (that may be the case of the subject of our romantic love which hopefully is more multifaceted than simply ‘what we see’) but we really must use our brains and insist that the image of minced doll described above is anything remotely to do with beauty, it is the antithesis of beauty: hate maybe? I love the religious art of the renaissance, because I was brought up on the cheap mass produced, chipped, poorly painted statues of the Roman Catholic tradition in Ireland , and by contrast the renaissance art is so beautiful, has so much depth and the sheer genius reflected in the skill, the use of light and shade, the colours and contrast never ceases to consume me as I look closer and closer trying to see the detail all the time marvelling that someone painted this maybe 500 years ago and I am looking at it. Maybe the emotions stirred up by looking at Renaissance art now, might be just what we need, because we desperately need something ‘beautiful’, here in the UK, to bring hope to our tortured, troubled souls.
    This conversation will be different at different times and spaces so the Australian ‘questions’ concerning the subject, may not be the UK questions, and we shouldn’t force uniformity across cultures when it comes to the question of the purpose of art for our generation. Art is a deeply sensitive thing and must be interpreted individually and part of the way God made us, is to deeply enjoy the creative effort of another to convey meaning, other than by language. Last time I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery , last October, there wasn’t much religious art there. I had desperately wanted to show my nephew “Christ of St John of the Cross” but it was out on loan. More recently, we have had the ‘corruption’ of Leonardo DaVinci’s contributions. To even remotely suggest that DaVinci had a hidden ‘code’ in his beautiful intricate work as expressed in the amazing Mona Lisa (subtle but profound) or The Last Supper (beautifully animated and relational depiction of Christ with his apostles) is an attempt to violate the lens through which we view those paintings, and maybe that’s deliberate as we are constantly and subtly being told ‘how’ to think and ‘what’ to think. But then we are also prone to worship the created rather than the creator. Because for me the Renaissance art always reflected God and back, in the same way that science reflects God and back and to get the opportunity to see the greats of the Renaissance art for me was ‘food for my soul’ having been brought up on that vile ‘Sacred Heart’ picture, surely the medieval equivalent of the doll in the mincer, a frightening image for a small child or a sensitive person alike. But maybe the mind manipulators have won for now and we are going to have to stop looking backward for meaning and start to look forward. I think we might just be on the cusp of a Renaissance in music and art which just might precede, a revival of the Christian religion, on a par with the reformation. I’m not talking about the quick fix or dishonest substitute of the likes of the New Apostolic Reformation or Christian music presented in ‘Hillsong’, nothing so vile, but a renewal of the purity, depth of language and knowledge, wisdom and deep personality of the God of the Bible and everything good that He has made; music, art, writing, and every other good thing.
    For a long time, I struggled to find ‘something beautiful’ and I didn’t even realize that I was missing it until I started to see it and experience how soothing to the soul something beautiful is and how essential for the times we live in. In just looking for a living room rug, I came across a collection by a Scottish artist Fi Douglas whose paintings of flowers and meadows found their counterpart in soft furnishings, bedding and floor coverings for the home. They are so beautiful. Literally art for the home. Last week I was in H&M clothes retail outlet with my son helping him to choose some clothes for a holiday he was preparing for and the ‘music’ nearly drove me to despair, it was literally a form of torture. I spoke to one man in the shop while I was waiting, and he obviously shared my view. He said “ya cannae think! Then you pull out a pair of jeans and they are full of holes in the knees”. He was at odds with the youth culture and so was I and we had a laugh about it but the youth need something beautiful. Who is laughing when they are dressed in rags, their knees coming out through their clothes and the girls with so little cloth used in their clothes are either paying too much for the item they purchased or someone is wanting to see more of them by making smaller clothes. I go off the point a bit, but my hope was renewed when I listened to the music you highlighted, David, recently in recommending ‘Sons of Korah’. I listened and haven’t stopped listening since. Thankfully Australia had more to offer than ‘Hillsong’, vacuous, cheap nonsense which when examined reveals bad, if not downright dangerous, theology. The music of Sons of Korah is indeed ‘something beautiful’ . The lead singer, so sensitive and gentle, interprets the psalms beautifully and precisely, reflected in the melodies, the instruments and the sheer skill of the musicians, the arrangements, backing vocals and his own delivery and the synthesis between all these elements showing a DaVinci-esque genius that we haven’t seen in an awful long time. I have been playing them a lot on my bluetooth speaker and it is literally to have the fragrance and holiness of God filling my home and the mystery of the language of emotion soaring like an eagle in my perceptions. My hope was further renewed when my son’s friend was in our house and I could see he was that sensitive ‘beautiful’ type of person, that I hadn’t seen in a while. He told me of his deep desire to perform in classical Spanish guitar and as he spoke my own son was playing a most beautiful melody on his guitar, unaware that I was listening and my heart soared with the potential: for ‘something beautiful’. There capacity just now for the house of the wise to be filled with “rare and beautiful treasures”. Prov24:4. Maybe, just maybe we are on the cusp of a Renaissance and we will see so many more beautiful things; hopefully.
    But for the purposes of evangelism, we need ‘creativity’ to use any and all means necessary to convey the gospel. The need to ‘adapt’ creativity for the times we are living in is to create ‘tools’ for our times. Using words, drama, animation and puppetry, humour and comedy, skilfully and with great thought, it is possible to bring the good news of the gospel to many, across the generations in order to bring hope and revival into the hearts of many, especially the youth, who have been robbed of so much because of evolution speak, fragmented subjects, and the moral vacuum, exploited by the depraved, which seeks to all but destroy them. The youth really need our comfort and hope. Lets bring it to them; the unchanging God of the gospel, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, hope for the hopeless and Him who trades “beauty for ashes” Isa 61:3. The number of methods used will be as many as the fragments scattered by an evolutionary world view and accompanying lies, so it will be interesting to witness new and bold methods, using any and all means, using resources creatively and constructively to bring hope, unity and life; even life everlasting. Then we might see, once again, the evidence of the presence and work of the Creator, in lives restored, restoring knowledge and skill as reflected in art. Bring on the day.

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