Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Richard Wilbur on abstraction in painting and poetry

"There must be some poets who have very little visual imagination, even though the eye is the primary sense. Everybody's agreed on that. Since the middle ages I think. Even D.H. Lawrence, who made out a strong case against the primacy of vision, was a painter.
I think I can say why there are more painter-poets, or poets who are would be painters, than there are poets who have to do with music. It strikes me that music is infinitely more abstract then painting or poetry. That you can't make any precise statements as to what music is up to. Poetry simply has to be exact and concrete or it bores to death. And on the whole, I think--despite some successes in abstract painting-that it's the same with painting."

-Richard Wilbur, Conversations with Richard Wilbur

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Synesthesia and the Glory of God

Synesthesia is basically the mixing of the senses. My brother said when he was very young, he didn't want a certain blanket because "it smells like red noises!"

While listening this excellent sermon by Baylor RUF campus minister Pete Hatton, I was reminded of synesthesia when Pete said that we can see God's glory thorough a sermon. Sometimes we see God through hearing his word. Sometimes we hear of His Glory by seeing a sunset that tells of that glory.

But this makes sense, because the perfect Word of God that with God and is God, became incarnated and was the perfect man, the perfect Image of God.

The Word is the Image, and we, including our eyes and ears, are made in his likeness. So perhaps synesthesia isn't so unnatural.

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abstraction, representation and trinitarian aesthetics

An experiment in criticism.

It seems that abstract art, in not imitating nature, is often imbalanced in regard to the relation of the whole to the parts, the many and the one.

Above you have a painting by Malevich, one by Turner, and one by Pollock.

It seems in imitating nature, representational art naturally inherits a pleasing relation and coherence of whole and part. Minimalist abstraction and Pollock paintings are of course the extremes in this case, but I think it's safe to say that much modern art (and architecture) suffers from a sterile, monolithic, boring oneness. And now much post-modern art suffers from an equally boring, un-coherent, sprawling manyness.

I'm not against all abstract art, but I tend to stick to re-presentation. But I think when abstract art is good, it is in a sense, good because it finds a quality, a proportion, a relationship between things, a coherence that we find in God's art: nature. And thus, while being abstract, it's strength is still coming from representation.

If you draw what is there in the world, you are learning from the Artist from whom all artist get their name.

Art (the skillful making of things to evoke beauty) is, when man does it, by nature representational, because man himself is an image of God, a representation, an imitating creature who makes by the law in which he's made.

And our God, in whose image we are made, and whose glory nature proclaims, is the glorious Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the Athanasian Creed says: "the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God."

This world we live in, which was made by the Three in One, we call the universe. The creation, like the Creator, is one and many, unity in diversity, and so we call it universe.

Also, in creation, we often see a relation of part to whole, mathmatitions call a fractal: where the shape of a part mirrors (reflects/represents) the shape of the whole. An obvious example is a fern, but you could also take the shape of a mountain and a molehill, or a tree and a leaf, or a solar system and an atom. This too has something to do with the triune God who we know through Jesus.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

creativity creation, and originality

"A creature is not a creator, and cannot be. There is only one
Creation, and we are it's members.

To be creative is only to have health: to keep oneself fully alive
in the Creation, to keep the Creation fully alive in oneself, to see
the Creation anew, to welcome one's part in it anew.

The most creative works are all strategies of this health.

Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on
originality, reduce the Creation to novelty-the faint surprises
of minds incapable of wonder.

Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In lone-
liness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot

Novelty is a new kind of loneliness."

-Wendell Berry in What Are People For?

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Friday, May 04, 2007

thoughts on drawing, glory, beauty and God

"When drawing the model, stay present and in utter awe! When he or she takes the stand, it is as if they are a god or goddess presented to us. They represent you and the rest of humanity. Become amazed and stay open to this fantastic occurrence. Your experience with the model is your drawing... Use the idea of having the richest and most stimulating experience drawing the model's humanity while using your very own as the purpose to drawing. All of the technique throughout the rest of this book is to serve that higher purpose."
-Mike Mattesi in Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators

Drawing is seeing is knowing is loving what you see and know and draw. For we are made to know by loving, and one day seeing, the Holy Trinity, in whose image each of us and all of us are made. An image ultimately that, to quote Lewis, " might be tempted to worship". From the above quote : " if a god or goddess". As David says: "...crowned with glory and honor." For the One (and Three) we present (and re-present) as we face out into the world is crowned with an infinitely greater glory. And the whole world we face and see is also "full of his glory" as the seraphim proclaim.

Learning to draw is learning how to see the world around you. To know that each face you see is an image of God. To be borne down by the heaviness of the weight of glory. To know that speaking, spoken trees and skies are gloriously declaring glory.

And we too are words made by the Word for speaking.
We are works that work: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians)

We are made things that make things.
We are images that make images.
We are clay that shapes clay.

And yet... perhaps drawing as I described it is not how it is now, but how it was in the old garden at the beginning of the world, and how it will be at the new garden-city at the beginning to the new heavens and new earth.

For all nature's proclamations of glory, she groans (Romans 8) under another weight, the weight of sin, the weight the King of Glory bore for us under a darkened sky on the broken tree of the cross.

"Beauty is there, abroad in the order of things..." as David Bentley Hart wrote, not in the eye of the beholder. In the eye of the beholder is a splinter or perhaps a 2X6. And so we cannot see creation or our fellow images aright. The woman God made beautifully in his image, we lust after. The brother we are given to look after, we kill instead. The glorious creation which tells of God, we mistake for God and worship.

But that is why we must go to the God who heals the blind, and pray "on earth as it is in heaven." For, as sure as the sun rises after darkness, there will come one eternal day when we will see and live with the God who opens eyes with mud and blinds men with his beauty.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Vander Wende and Heade

I was at Barnes and Noble the other day reading (I think) John Updike's Essays on Art. I was struck by how a Martin Johnson Heade painting reminded me of Richard Vander Wende's concept paintings for Willow.

Paintings by Heade:

Paintings by Vander Wende (3 from Willow, one from Aladdin, and one Riven render):

Edit: I remember now, it also reminded me of another concept artist: Doug Chiang. Here is a screen shot form his Robota trailer:

Robota eventually became an illustrated book.

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