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.
“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” — Vincent Van Gogh
Vivid contrasts are revealed throughout the Bible. I begins with darkness on the face of the deep and proceeds to:
3 “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” — Genesis 1:3-4
The ideas of light and darkness continue throughout the Christian Testament too. 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 of light and darkness in their works, even in the most abstract art works. They have to do this as all that our eyes see are impressions of light.
Rembrandt van Rijn is a master of especially bringing his subjects, especially in portraits out of the shadows.
There are other thematic contrasts throughout scripture that artists portray, especially emotional ones. There 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 reveal can pertain to the subject matter, for a great artist the contrast/conflict IS the subject matter.
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. Follow Peter on Twitter where he is: @KlausClodt Thanks Peter!
Use of images: Rembrandt self-portrait attributed to Rembrandt – www.rembrandtpainting.net : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37544718
Cypresses from the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Vincent van Gogh, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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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
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