Posts tagged: Christian art

Various

By , 2 October 2009 7:24 pm

First of all, welcome to the new blog site which you’ll see is attached to my own website. There are lots of reasons for this but it ought to make things a lot easier. I presume you’ve got here from the old site, so please adjust your favourites accordingly.

This is one of those catching-up type of blogs. It’s been good, if busy, week here. After the ceaseless grey skies and endless rains of July and August, September has been almost totally dry here. Even if I haven’t been able to enjoy it most of the time, it’s still been pleasant. This week I had a really great field trip with 35 students to the south coast of Wales where we looked at the Carboniferous, Triassic and Jurassic rocks. The sun shone, the rocks were revealing and I was reduced to wearing a T-shirt on the last day of September. This is the Jurassic.

fieldtrip2

I’m afraid I don’t possibly engage with the responses that I get to my blog in the way I ought to. Writing the blog has become a regular Friday evening task which I (largely) enjoy and I don’t try and do too much during the week to it. We all know stories of writers whose writing suffered because they spent too much time dealing with the fan mail. Well I’m afraid I don’t have that much fan mail but this blog could preoccupy me. However that is not to neglect your contributions: I am not deliberately flattering you in saying that you almost all raise stimulating and challenging points.

Last week was no exception: I was fascinated by the feedback on Thomas Kinkade. Kirsty said effectively that she didn’t mind his paintings but they were ‘twee’. That raises an absolutely fascinating question as to whether in a world of suffering, woe and potential redemption we actually ought to do ‘twee.’ Mind you, I’ll take tweeness over in-your-face brutality and gratuitous ugliness any day. Boaz said some nice things and wondered quite provokingly about the nature of heaven and set me thinking about whether there will be any shadows there. Surely light needs some measure of darkness to emphasise it? Could you ever create a picture without some darkness? Taking the subject less metaphorically, could goodness be seen as goodness in the absence of evil? Well I’m reluctant to meditate on the nature of heaven (I have already done more than any man ought to do on that subject) but I wonder if it is worth considering that, although evil will be gone, the memory of it will be allowed to linger? There are at least hints in the book of Revelation that the redeemed will praise God because of what they were rescued from. In heaven, evil will be without power and threat but I’m pretty certain that we will not all be amnesiacs in that area. I wonder if in some way evil be will be preserved; like some sort of stuffed animal in a museum or as tales in books to remind us what the world once suffered. As others have said, perhaps what are wounds now will be merely scars there.

Zoomie added the revelation (or should I say ‘allegation’?) that the paintings were in fact mass produced by a team of copyists. While I cannot say that this is true or false, the sheer number of different paintings using common elements but done in an identical style is rather striking. Frankly, the thought had crossed my mind but I didn’t dare utter it. Of course, many great artists working to deadlines got their pupils to do various elements such as the sky and background and then filled in the foreground themselves. I read somewhere that Arthur Sullivan (the composer half of Gilbert and Sullivan) got his students to write many of his overtures using themes from the operettas. Nevertheless the suggestion here is of something on a much larger and more outrageous scale. When I mentioned the possibility to someone he said ‘I’m not surprised given the sort of painting he produces’. I think what he meant was poor art goes together with poor ethics. I think there is some truth in this but I’m still thinking it through. (Some great artists were utter rats). My take on this would be something along the following: If an artist is determined to create original and valued works of art, he or she is unlikely to get someone else to do that for them. Conversely, if they produce works of art that are neither original nor which they value, then it is hardly surprising that they might get others to do it for them. So its a broad, but not perfect, correlation. Anonymous (I think) defended poor old Kinkade but referred to a website presumably of their own work. The interesting thing was that I felt that the images on that site had precisely the freshness, newness and excitement that the tired old Kinkade images didn’t have.

Aranel made an interesting comment about an ailing friend who took comfort from the paintings. Now here, friends, is the problem with being a Christian critic. Faced with a brother or sister being comforted by some work of art that we dislike intensely, what can we do? I would say that if we are certain that it is actually doing no theological harm surely all we can do is mutter ‘bless you’ and tiptoe away as quietly as possible.

Have a really good week.

Every blessing

Chris

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