Sunday, 11 May 2014

Christianity and the Arts

I've been trawling through the archives at the library again, and in particular for Sundays, "The Pilot" which was the monthly magazine for the Church of England in Jersey for many years. Every month, there would be pieces from the minister of each church, along with various other articles of interest.
In 1993, the Reverend Tony Keogh began a series of articles in "The Pilot" under the umbrella title "Christianity and the Arts"I thought it was a shame that it should be buried in the past, so I've transcribed it for my blog.

Christianity and the Arts
By Tony Keogh
The soul of Man must quicken to creation.
Out of the firmless stone, when the artist united himself with stone,
Spring always new forms of life, from the soul of man that is joined to the soul of stone;
Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless
Joined with the artist's eye, new life, new form, new colour.
(TS Eliot, "The Rock")
"Momentarily to every man comes the crossing of the wires with reality. It may be the Caliban moment -
"This isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs - lost in a flash; or held a little while in utter bliss. Remembered and sometimes written down: Saints in contemplation . . Bach working at a keyboard ... Fra Angelico working on the San Marco frescoes .. . Einstein working at the notion of relativity ..,. they all knew it. This is a kind of spiritual nuclear fission." (Lawrence Lee).
These two men, trying to describe their experiences as creative artists, see those experiences in terms of religious activities. This is not surprising when we remember that the opening chapter of the Bible is a poem about creation, the creation of a universe which God saw as good.
Indeed, both the Old and the New Testaments begin with a description of the two greatest acts of God - the Creation and the Incarnation. The earth is given to man for his enjoyment, delight and stewardship; form and content are perfectly fused in the Word made flesh.
Degas' statement that "everything, everything in this world has a sacred meaning" reminds us of the Bible's assertion that in Creation, God saw all that He had made was good, and it is from this creation that the artist selects his raw material, his subject matter, and transforms it by bestowing on it what the poet Vatery called "harmonious and unforgettable shape," the relationship between Christian belief, the artist and his work intricate and complex.
Generalisations are dangerous, but I think we need to make a general distinction, with respect to Christian art, along the following lines:
Christian art can be regarded as an historical category. It simply applies only to those works whose themes are overtly Christian -paintings of Biblical scenes, music settings of religious texts, literature dealing with the main themes of Christian belief.
The term can also be used in a wider sense as indicating some connection between a work of art and a Christian vision and understanding of the world. Some novels, plays and paintings, may be said to share in the Christian vision even if they have no explicit Christian reference.
Lastly, we can use the term "Christian art". as a re-enactment of creation. It could be said that all works of art are reminders that man reflects God in his own image and to create.
I hope in these series of articles to show how God has made himself known through the gift of the artists, and if you accept the three fold way of considering "Christian art," you may not be surprised at some of the artists, through whom we can experience the Creator and Incarnate God.


No comments: