Where theology concerns itself in how the unseen makes its mark on the material, art concerns itself with making a material trace of the unseen. As a student of theology trained for ministry in a mainline, Canadian Protestant denomination, I struggled with systematic theology, which I found severely limited, in giving an account of faith, when placed in the crucible, or in the hermeneutic, of context and history. It was helpful to view the writers who dared to record in “The Book,” as artists who invited and engaged others to see and hear the illusive, irascible character of the unseen.
In many ways, I’ve seen art as an interpretation, or a translation, of things unseen. And it is that interpretation that gives comfort, that causes disturbance and grants sustenance to both the artist and the viewer.
This exercise is to select a quote that best describes my vision as an artist.
“What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things… it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating its exterior surface.” Constantin Brancusi. This quote echoes much of what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s character in The Little Prince said, “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. “
While it is the artists’ role to interpret and express things that are unseen, it is also their role to state what is obviously there. Louise Bourgeoise said, “An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.” This is the prophetic act of speaking truth to power as expressed by the young boy when he stated that the emperor has no clothes.
No truer words were spoken as when citizens of Toronto, faced with intolerable cuts to essential services ask, “Where is the gravy?”