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Archive for May, 2016

17th May 2016

Contrasts in Art and the Bible

“The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” — Carl Jung

“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” — Vincent Van Gogh

Painting and drawing theory has much to do with contrasting darks and lights, shapes, etc. The Bible, which is an enduring delight of visual descriptions, begins by contrasting the new light to what was the deep but now with the creation of light is understood as darkness.

Vivid contrasts are revealed throughout the Bible.  In Luke 6:20, the poor receive the kingdom of heaven because in their need (for provision, health, comfort, etc.) their last hope rests on the Divine Love and creative power.  Stark contrast exists between extreme deep lack of the poor and the abundances of the Creator, the kingdom of all that is or ever will be. And yet, to begin to appreciate and experience that abundance, one must recognize one’s own lack.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things,” —Isaiah 45:7

Great artists reveal contrasts, especially emotional ones. The is a profound tension that may be in-your-face as found in works by Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt or Salvador Dali and celebrity portraits by Andy Warhol; or contrasting emotional tensions may be quietly alluded to, as found in works by Vermeer, Georgia O’Keeffe, Monet and Mark Rothko.  Leonardo Da Vinci splendidly shows so many contrasts, including that of emotional expression, in his Mona Lisa that it has become the most famous portrait in the world.

A great painter’s communication of emotional contrast/conflict the Divine is revealed and we also see or recognize truths about ourselves and our own lives. Although this revealment can pertain to the subject matter, for a great artist the contrast/conflict IS the subject matter.

Psalm 113 Essence Portrait by Vincent van Gogh by Judy Rey Wasserman

Psalm 113 (Vincent van Gogh) by Judy Rey Wasserman

I know this because powerful, brooding yet joyous works by Mark Rothko have brought me to to actual tears, as my emotional response was too great to contain when I felt confronted by own emotional conflicts and contrasts. Similarly, Vincent van Gogh’s The Cypresses in the Metropolitan Museum of art basically rescued me when I was a teen struggling with the emotional conflict warring inside me that swung from my youthful exuberant happiness, increasing autonomy and hope for the future, which radically conflicted with the sadness, fear and anger I felt in my home life. I recognized the same emotional strengths of conflict in van Gogh’s work, and across the centuries felt that someone else had felt as I did, somehow, I was not alone. Van Gogh found a way to show me a balance, even a harmony that could exist, and even exist for me.

For me, evil denotes the absence of G-D, whereas good shines with the Presence. Again, the contrast, and again, one that is a visual reference.

This post was inspired by the cited quote, which was posted by Peter Boaz Jones on his Facebook wall. The initial paragraph here was part of my comment and our discussion there. Peter also contributed the Isaiah 45:7 quote to an earlier draft of this post.  We also follow each other on Twitter where he is: @KlausClodt Thanks Peter!

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com. Get a copy of the currently free prior to and during an upcoming crowd funding campaign e book: In the Beginning via the right hand column on this page or via http://artofseeingthedivine.com/booklet.htm.

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