Saturday, April 15, 2006

Christianity and Western Art

Duccio, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rubens, Picasso, Warhol, Mapplethorpe etc... The relationship between Art and Culture is linked intricately. How does an artist depict(s) his/her worldview? What assumptions lie behind the piece of art work? More critically perhaps, how should a Christian view the arts? Should we abandon them completely, or can the Gospel of Jesus Christ speak to an aesthetic world that is increasingly desperate in its search for meaning?

Presenter: Benjamin Ho
Date: April 19, 2006
Time: 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm
Location: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.

For more information, contact Joshua (90428098) or Benjamin (92729469)

2 comments:

Sze Zeng said...

Yesterday presentation was well-organized in introducing the flow of worldview behind artworks.

There was a remark being made that is in the ancient time, art is an everyday affair. Ben pointed out that artists didnt sign their names on artworks because it is art is such a norm.

Contra to that, in our current century, art is not a norm anymore. People/Christians lack the passion to appreciate art in aesthethical and axiological sense. Part of the reason could be that literacy is not as lack of as in the ancient time. The ancients use art as a form of communication. And this bring me to realize the purpose of art.

Basically it is to communicate. It is a media.

Thus in appreciating art, Christian should look for both of it aesthethical values and axiological (for eg.moral values) values. That is to say, we should appreciate arts with its beauty and message simultaneously, without separating one from the other.

Yesterday, Teng Kok, Ben, Mej, and others came to the idea of dichotomizing art into 'technical', 'aesthethic', and 'axiological' compartments. This stand i did sympathized until Joseph gave his remark before the end of the session. And his remarks got me to think about the whole thing of dichotomizing an artwork.

I don buy that. Secularists are fine in their way to appreciate arts in its technical-aesthethic manner, but not for Christians.

For Christians, i suggest that we shouldnt separate the aesthethics and the axiology of art. The starting to REDEEM art is to get back its original purpose, that is recognising its 'mediumistic' nature. Artworks are meant to convey messages. As far as Christians are concern, messages are the one thing that matters more than any other thing. The Gospel is a message.

From there, we move to judging the message with God's word, then only to appreciate its aesthethic. Some might ask why shouldnt we appreciate the aesthethic for its own sake. The answer is easy, because we are Christian and we care about message than aesthethic in an artwork.

No matter how beautiful a portrait of Siddharta Gautama attaining his buddhahood, that comes second. First, we have to realized the same of the portrait. Can human gain enlightenment (reach the trancesdence, venture beyond our own human nature, or whatever u call it) in our own effort and mere hardwork? This contra Christianity's tenets.

No doubt the aesthethic is beautiful and mend to be appreciated, but due to its bad message, we should condemn it. BEcause when our neighbours look at that painting, he is not merely contemplating the aesthethic, he is interpreting the message. And possible of acknowledging it and hold it as a truth in his life.

On another end, Christians should produce arts that bear Christian elements/symbols. By this i do not mean the 'cross', 'a man with beard', or 'an empty tomb'. Christian elements such as Total Depravity of man, Grace of God, failure of the Enlightenment project, despair of Relativism and of Nihilism etc etc should be express through painting, multimedia arts, etc etc.

Further discussion is welcome.

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