Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 82
Where Is God? Is It God that I See?
The position of the artist
He is essentially
Where is God? God is everywhere! This was the first question and answer in my Baltimore Catechism book from parochial school.
Who is God? God is our Father! That was the second question and answer. A better question would have been; what is God?
As a painter, I really feel that I continue to deal with these philosophical and theological questions every day. Why? Maybe because I was brought up in the pre-Vatican II church or because I was instructed by nuns in catholic schools.
Pablo Picasso said, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.”
Ernst Fischer, the author of, The Necessity of Art: A Marxist Approach wrote that, “God is the collective.” So then, if God is the will, the desire or the need of the collective, we are therefore the god whom we created in our image; not the other way around. There is no external god. It has no gender. There is no Heaven. There is no Hell.
Oh, I know I’ve rocked the boat for some people. And, what does Art have to do with religion? Everything. Absolutely everything. Art was the original manifestation of religion. I was actually fired as an Art History professor because the atheists in the class complained that I interjected too much religion into the lectures. Let me put it this way, without Art, there would b no religion as we know it.
Obviously, there would be no Art without the need for the collective to believe in an organized manner. At this point, I believe I need to be perfectly clear – religion and belief are two different things. Religion is what you do. Spirituality is what you believe. One is faith; the other practice.
Art bridges the gap between faith and practice. So then, imagine religious practices as thatere. Try to accept the concept that here and now is all that exists. Or, does it? In the same train of thought, did the concept of forever originate in our individual and collective DNA? How about the collective consciousness – memory, or history for that matter?
The term or concept of collective consciousness is about shared beliefs. It also encompasses the moral attitudes which both guide us and operate as a unifying force within society. The term was introduced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim. But, what are beliefs? Perceptions are realities!
So, if this god is us, then godliness should be in us and we should therefor act or be godlike. The Eastern Indian greeting namaste is Sanskrit for, the god within me salutes the god in you. This god then, is not outward but inward.
It, this god, has the capacity to be or, it actually does exist in every one of us. And, because of that, evil is not a force or a presence but the absence of good. The good of the collective. The collective good.
How did Art get mixed up in all of this? Well, the primal, cultural and very human need for a god is, in actuality, the need for understanding. Art. Painting specifically, is an expression of the collective’s belief, it supports their understanding of that belief and and offers both guidance and the reinforcement of the required rituals and celebrations.
Religious imagery is a reflection of the collective’s needs. It connects the individuals within the group. It is their communion. It is the representation of their unified wishes for success and survival based on their understanding of a higher power. Art is not just a handmaiden of religious belief; it is the equivalent of religion.
Alfred Stieglitz photographed abstract images that he equated with his experiences. His thoughts, and emotions were captured with the theory of equivalence in mind. The theory was the subject of discussion at Gallery 291 and was fueled by Kandinsky’s ideas.
Kandinsky believed that colors, shapes, and lines were a reflection of the inner vibrations of the soul. Stieglitz called his cloud photographs Equivalents. Abstraction was a modern art idea at the turn of the twentieth century.
Stieglitz said, “My cloud photographs are equivalents of my most profound life experiences, my basic philosophy of life. All art is an equivalent of the artist’s most profound life experiences.”
Picasso said, “There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.”.
And if any of this makes sense to you so far that a “god” or, God, if you prefer, is within each of us; then so is Art. One of our defining characteristics as human beings is the ability to create Art. It’s almost impossible not to. Archaeological evidence supports the fact that humans, since as far back as has been discovered, have made or used the basic components of Art such as line, flat shapes, color and pattern to either reproduce in image or to produce, as concept, the world around them and the world as they saw it, experienced it, interpreted it and understood it.
This evidence dates back about 30,000 years. Art was both a practical function of their physical survival, as well as, their emotional and spiritual needs as individuals and as members of their clans and tribes.
I believe it’s about the innate need for order. Not as we know O.C.D to be but more the result of dominant right brain orientation.
Trying to pin the origins of Art through creative or artistic behavior is, in my opinion, the same as rationalizing the presence of a god or gods. Art was both an individual endeavor as it was a communal function of the collective. Individually it existed as body decoration from tattoos, to piercings, to scarification and hair style, decoration and the use of beads and other jewelry.
What is very interesting to me, as someone who experiences entopic phenomenon, AKA visual floaters, as the result of two cataract and retinal detachment surgery, is the similarity of these floaters with the primitive markings. And, I have somehow, subconsciously or otherwise, included these same marks and entopic experiences as expressions in my own work.
Artists almost universally used patterns from zig-zag, to spirals, parallel lines, as well as, crisscross patterns. They may be seen on artifacts and cave walls, as well as, the human body. These almost universally employed marks are a phenomenon considering the range and span of settlements and cultures 30,000 years ago.
In Art & Artists; Creative Urge and Personality Development, Otto Rank wrote, “Thus, at the very commencement of human development – then indeed, in far greater measure than subsequently – we have the unreal element as the decisive factor which led to expression in art. But if religion is originally unreal, and the (psychologically speaking) equivalent love-experience at the other end of the scale is predominantly real, art stands in the middle, realizing the unreal and rendering it concrete.”
“In doing so, it merely follows a universal law of development… that human development consists in a continuously progressive concretization of phenomena that were originally purely ideal or spiritual. In this sense the whole of cultural development is an artistic, or at least artificial, attempt to objectify human ideologies …The essence of art, however, lies precisely in the concrete representation of the abstract”
Posted on: 10/11/2016, by : Ron Fortier