Heading for the New Land (Pure Watercolour)
Can I offer you an hypothesis?
It’s this : (let’s get help from the dictionary by the way, an hypothesis is: An assertion that is subject to verification or proof. A proposition stated as a basis for reasoning).
My hypothesis is this : ‘Man’s ability to create is proof of the fact that man has been created.’ Pretty simple don’t you think?
I speak of the Creator, who is a Person, and therefore we came out of the Personal.
Rather than having suddenly sparked from some impersonal force of ‘electricity’. I cant accept that the ‘personal’ was created by the ‘impersonal’.
So it’s in the image of the Creator we are created – who is a Person. God is a Spirit. And we are created in the image of the Godhead (Father Son and Holy Spirit), tripartite – body, soul, and spirit.
I guess the nearest I’ll get to credentials or credibility when it comes to writing about art, is that I do have an artist’s brain. (Whatever that exactly means). I do paint pictures. And I like to talk ‘art’, and I’d like to hear from you if you too have the odd idea.
My credentials as a Christian are God-given, undeserved, but given as a gift from God. They are basically the same credentials that Matthew the tax collector was given when Jesus simply said : ‘Follow Me’. And he did.
He rose up and became a Christian – (a follower, in other words, of Christ). His calling of course was as an Apostle uniquely to the twelve.
But all Christians ever since have been ‘called’ to follow in faith.
‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us (me) that we (I) should be called the sons of God’! (I John 3/1).
Amazing Grace giving credibility with God through an unmerited title of adoption!
I believe in every human being there (I’m returning to the hypothesis), is creative potential expressed if allowed to, in many different ways.
There’s something in us that wants to find expression, in fact there’s an art movement called ‘Expressionism’ – as you know.
Whether it’s Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel or a Mr. Bean sketch, in which he drives a mini – both are seeking to communicate to provide enjoyment, insight, challenge, skill, imagination, information, and so on to their fellow man by being profoundly or humorously creative.
There is in many painters a desire to give birth to something new.
Giving birth (as in producing offspring) is the nearest mankind can get to actually ‘creating’.
Something in other words must exist (seed of the man and the woman) before mankind can produce or ‘create’ something new or unique.
Once the natural process (procreation) – that God originally put in motion or ordained if you like – is underway in marriage – the human spirit from God is given to inhabit the natural body. This is quite a mystery as to how this natural/supernatural event takes place, but it does.
Whereas God, in the beginning, created from nothing by what He said. ‘And God said let there be light…(and there was)’ and so on.
Many artists in giving themselves to art become caught up in a great inward struggle to give birth to something unique trying to capture e.g. on a flat surface something that would satisfy them.
Van Gogh, Van go or Van ‘H’ogh (the pronunciation is up to you) – is an example of a man in mental and emotional turmoil in his quest to produce or perfect his art.
However Van Gogh was a minister of religion before he turned to art. Why did he turn to art? What does this tell us about the man, about religion, about art?
Here was a man who, at one period of his life, at the age of twenty-five, set out to serve a community in Borinage, that was possibly the poorest in all the Parishes served by the denomination his father was already a minister in.
Van Gogh gave himself to this with the same gusto and enthusiasm that he later poured into his paintings.
Now of course Van Gogh has become a legend and an almost mythical figure and we must sort out fact from fiction – myth from reality regarding his life.
One myth for example is the idea that he didn’t sell any paintings while alive, when technically he did, inasmuch as they were given to his brother Theo who acted as his agent.
Paying him an allowance in return. So would it be right or more accurate to say Theo never sold any?
We know Vincent became mentally disturbed and the question why(?) is no more easily answered than it is for many similarly disturbed today.
But Van Gogh got religion, and when it didn’t bring the fulfilment he must have craved, and when his love for women was not returned, we find in the next chapter of his life, that he turned to art.
Religion sought by and incorporating strained effort, a salvation by works which doesn’t ‘work’, will never produce anything but frustration and disappointment. It is based on self-effort and not on the foundation that nothing else can provide, namely faith, and therefore justification by faith in the Rock – Christ Jesus.
So whatever Vincent tried to get in religious good works – in being a do-gooder, in giving service to the poor, rather than bringing satisfaction, peace, contentment it brought in its wake only more turmoil, especially when his efforts didn’t seem to be appreciated by his peers in the ministry.
I suggest to you in all his good works, in all his service to the poor community, Van Gogh lacked something.
There was something missing. In his attempts at being benevolent to those people – he found, as all of us will find, he ran out of steam.
We can’t keep it up – some run out of steam quicker than others. Some find the needs so overwhelming that they end up with mental and nervous breakdowns themselves.
In trying to creatively serve others Van Gogh – it would seem perhaps – did not encounter the creator (?). What was he longing for in serving the poor? What was he searching for in his painting?
Picasso once said ‘I do not seek – I find’. However his painting was, apart from anything else, a search, drawing from the subconscious. In my view he found in the painting itself, a suggestion of the next step to take rather than a pre-concieved plan to adhere to. Thus the meaning of his statement.
The Lord Jesus however said: ‘Seek and you will find’. We do not hear Picasso claiming to have found faith. He didn’t seek it, it would seem.
We don’t hear that he sought God and found Him.
So here was another painter whose painting somehow provided a substitute for ‘religion’, indeed is it not true that for some, art became a religion?
I’m told Picasso was obsessed with death. Yet his fear of it (again it would seem) didn’t lead him to finding God.
In all his creating (as far as I am aware) he made no acknowledgement of the creator. Here was creative genius creating without the creator of the universe by his side and in his life.
Some might retort: ‘Well how do you know wise-guy – religion is a private thing!’
Well forgive me, but of course I’m talking Christianity, and the Bible is our authoritative reference for stating the gospel message. And we read : ‘If you shall believe in your heart and confess with your mouth The Lord Jesus Christ you shall be saved (converted) (delivered)’. Picasso to my knowledge made no such confession.
As a painter Picasso was a genius. Who, as you probably know, at a young age was so good at painting naturalistically that on completing a task his father (also a painter) set him, did it so well that his father gave him his brushes and never painted again, so superior a draughtsman was his son. It was rather like a footballer hanging up his boots.
But here was a creative genius who it would seem, didn’t believe my hypothesis: ‘that mans ability to create is proof that he has been created’, and therefore should search until he finds the creator.
I’m told there was a period in history known as the Age of Reason. When man began to search for answers to life not in faith and religion – but by using his own ability to reason and subject everything to the measuring rod of scientific proof.
The Impressionists sought to no longer paint in the academic style of the day rather they turned to the reality presented to their eyes in Plein-air painting.
No longer did they wish to paint the mythical subjects but looked at the world around them trying to reproduce it on a flat surface.
But they were mostly concerned with their own response to it, the sensations they experienced as they sat or stood before nature to paint.
Then Gauguin came along and claimed they were ‘slaves to nature’.
And that by looking at the outward appearance of things they were missing the mystical reality behind it all.
Was Gauguin of the belief that man’s ability to create is proof that he has been created?
Gauguin went to Tahiti to a culture that did not, generally speaking, embrace the God of the Bible.
So Gauguin though finding answers for his art failed to answer his own questions about life.
His painting : ‘Where do we come from, what are we, where are we going to ?’ provides the questions that everyone asks, but not the answers many seek.
There’s something about artists that reminds me of prophets, but without the certainty that the prophets had.
Painters are, in a sense, would-be ‘prophets’. They search in a somewhat similar way through painting what prophets search for, through prayer. (Although in another sense there is no comparison).
The painters are searching for new ways of expressing themselves. They want to create. If there is no personal God why is there within us the desire to find expression creatively?
Also how can we have personal relationships with others, if we came out of some impersonal chance beginning?
If there is no greater intellect that has created us, how can we have an inferior one, in fact one at all?
Gauguin having learned of the death of his twenty-year-old daughter, the daughter of his family he had abandoned years before in Copenhagen to go, live, and work in Tahiti. He apparently exclaimed : ‘I love God no longer’. It was the start of the despair that led to attempted suicide.
Before suffering from conjunctivitis and fever he gave all his energy to painting this picture. He afterwards took arsenic but failed to kill himself.
In his description of the painting in a letter to a friend he refers to the idol as a reminder of Eternal truths. A menace, forever threatening humanity.
Why we have to ask, should the eternal and the reality of death pose such a threat?
Surely because of the uncertainty of unbelief.
Gauguin provides no answers either for himself or for us. He highlights the problem as many religions do. But in humility I say : ‘I’m heading for the new land’
My painting (above) is symbolic of this.
The new land of The Spirit, the heavenly kingdom of The Christ. He has gone there to prepare a place for me.
My hope, on this journey I have begun here, rests on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness. His Grace (unmerited favour toward me) is all I have and all I need to base my eternal future on.
Some movements in art are committed to expressing the universal truth that is beyond the appearance of things.
Gauguin was such an artist, He wanted through the means of painting to express the reality beyond the appearance of things.
Van Gogh who gave up trying to find God in religion, would stand for expressing what he felt about what was before his eyes – its all there why look further ?
Gauguin on the other hand wanted something deeper, his painting ‘Where do we come from, What are we, Where are we going to ?’ tries to pose what to Him was the (granted I’m assuming) more important questions.
Not how do I feel about what’s in front of my eyes – but rather what’s beyond and behind what we see.
It’s interesting that the man Van Gogh who gave up religion for art, cut off part of his ear and shot himself.
Found that, whatever art gave him it didn’t meet his innermost need, but then religion didn’t either.
We have to conclude that meeting the person called Jesus Christ, alone will provide the answers we seek. Relationship and not Religion provides the answers.
Gauguin the man who looked for what was beyond the creation, failed to find the creator. (or so the evidence would suggest – but granted I do not know for sure either way).
He turned aside from a moral code to live a life separated from his wife in a far off land in Tahiti where he died of a venereal disease. So he posed the question but provided no answers in the painting.
We were created, now we desire to create.
First class is to travel and create whilst having daily communion with the Creator. Second class is to travel on our own with the creative urge alone as a companion.
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, I have no pleasure in them’