Art and Life
written by Rev Gary Heard
When our high school art block burnt down in my fourth year, I was not disappointed. I was acutely aware in art classes that when push came to shove, I struggled to draw a conclusion, having barely graduated stick figure art in kindergarten. I had a gift for abstract art – or at least that was the teacher’s opinion when viewing most of my work. The only problem with abstract art was that I didn’t even understand what I was doing there. Put me into a maths class, or a science class, and I was in my element. I knew what I needed to do when confronted with a quadratic equation, when asked to graph results, or describe the components of a particular system. The answers were always the same, and easily verified. Art, on the other hand, required a skill and creativity which I wasn’t able to master.
During my university years I was starkly exposed to the different destinations which unfolded between choosing life as art or as science. In my final year the equation was put to me that hard work plus long hours meant rich financial rewards in the field I had studied. This was simple maths, and in my chosen field of study, there were clear pathways to pursue such ends. At this point in my life, perhaps for the first clear time, I chose the path of the artist, recognising that building a life required a bit more colour and diversity than offered by the defined but narrow career path laid out before me. I recall turning to my friend as we listened to a recent graduate extolling his record in income generation in such a short time and asking, “But when does he live?”
Unlike maths, which invites single answers to questions, art offers a multiplicity of opportunities and expressions. Different understandings of beauty are welcomed. The evolving and ever-changing landscape becomes a welcome platform for engagement in creative ways, welcoming both a diversity of expressions and a willingness to practice and shape, erase and redo.
Life is a combination of maths and art:: the hard-nosed thinking, evaluating and forecasting, together with the expressions of beauty and imagination, dream and ideal. Living is an art which is born of the reality that we cannot always determine the outcomes, even when our processes are in place.
It is easier to measure and value things which have numbers attached to them, which perhaps explains the emphasis today on wealth-building rather than making a life. But we need to occasionally step back and look at the larger canvas of life and see what picture is emerging.
The life of the follower of Jesus is spoken of in terms of the Spirit, rather than the law, or art rather than science. There is a recurring call to let go of the known from time to time, and venture into the world of art and beauty of the Creator.
June 15, 2008