In my artwork I have been layering materials, seeing into cracks, peeling back surfaces, exposing origin layers of ‘chaos’ beneath the paint – perhaps trying to get to the bottom of something ‘hidden'(?). And then conversely I have also been painting traditional sacred medieval icons, where the revelation of God is open, ‘present,’ revealed – where there are no ‘shadows,’ where heaven is directly engaged, where the large eyes of saints and prophets and saviours stare boldly, directly, unashamedly into our own broken souls. A sacred icon painter once referred to his practice as ‘wrestling with icons’ – and I can understand why. They force the ‘painter of God’ to examine deeply his own relationship with the divine realm.
An artist who has consciously decided to ‘Paint God’ is forced to ask at every step ~ can it be done?
I wonder if it is inbetween these places of light and dark, in the boundaries between the ‘hidden/shadow’ and the ‘revelation/present’ that is the most interesting place to seek and work. This place, between the darkness and the light, is full of richness ~ tis neither one nor the other. I can swing on the fringes of God’s robe and explore! In this place I can see God in Everything, and love the ritual and mystery of the Church, but I can also look and see God Nowhere – I can even say that forbidden word – Atheist – and honestly ask that question – does God exist? A real problem, because the tiny kernel of faith I possess is always, immediately, and simultaneously confronted with a mammoth terror – the scientific statistical possibility of our aloneness on earth. Our little blue planet, in an eternal galactic dark. I wonder where is God hiding in all this? I think it’s a great place to start ~ with terror ~ the Terror of Aloneness. The terror is real and faith reflected in that dark, is somehow more colourful, with multi-dimensional possibilities.
This video, a slightly mediated compilation of found footage primarily from NASA, is my response to the pathos of the human condition: The deep loneliness we all share, alone here on this Earth. We send our greetings out to the aliens in space, in every language, reaching out in a vain, almost comedic hope of NOT being alone. We share our music, images, codes, formulas, science. This probe has been travelling for over 40 years, it is only just leaving the solar system, about to enter interstellar space. This is the farthest physical reach into space of all known humanity. Two bits of space junk. It is a bit sad, slightly pathetic. But actually if we were to accept this ‘aloneness’ of humanity as a uniting force, as husbands of the Earth and all her creatures – then I feel that maybe we would appreciate how important is is for us to ‘just get along’ a bit better perhaps? Take some responsibility.
Beyond that, the more we learn of our world, our cosmos and the creation – the bigger God gets. If God is truly ‘beyond all that exists’ as early Christian mystic, Dionysius the Areopagite would say, then He is truly immeasurable. Yet if God IS all that exists – then likewise – immeasurable. The question then for us artists is this: Where is God that He can be drawn?
“One must abandon all that is impure and even all that is pure. One must scale the most sublime heights of sanctity leaving behind you all the divine luminaries, all the heavenly sounds and words. It is only thus that one may penetrate to the darkness wherein He who is beyond all created things makes his dwelling” (Dionysius the Areopagite; sourced from Lossky; 1944, p. 27)
Yet it is the journey that is key. Our desire for assumption into the unknown. Our wish to travel between realms. This is the place we can dwell, and explore. The place artists inhabit ~ at least until revelation.
Lossky, Vladimir (1944). The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press: New York.