friday, july 25, 2014
In Parables

How shall the artist speak? In parables. At least when he speaks to the world. The work he makes is a kind of parable. When the painter illustrates the workings of truth--truth in the interactions of material, truth through the principles and laws of visual perception--he has the capacity to step into the role of divine servant, showing the world a mystery that points to all truth.

Is it enough? It could be, if he would only remember that his work is no more exalted than that of a carpenter. Even at his best moments, he can be likened to a ‘chef’ of visual perceptions. As Jacques Maritain suggests in his essays on Art and Scholasticism--speaking as a friend of both the likes of Thomas Aquinas and Pablo Picasso--for all his great expectations of sublime insight, the artist is at last a simple workman.

The artist must remember to be practical and humble among intellectual workers. He is by necessity, the most pragmatic of poets. He may raise his mind to the realm of ideals, but this amounts to nothing unless he also keeps his hands moving, pushing the mud around; his eyes fixed with a hunter’s gaze to the chance movements and tendencies of matter. Only then can he rediscover, as Maritain puts it, “the spiritual conditions of honest labour.”

The mud speaks for the artist, for he is made mute by the nature and conditions of art. He enters the temple filled with notions, only to have his tongue silenced. The mud speaks as it will. It speaks to those who have eyes to see; ears to hear.


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