Trever and I like to wander the halls of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, we probably go monthly and I’m not quite sure why. We’ve seen their permanent collection dozens of times, but we keep going and looking at it again. Trever walks at a brisk pace and only momentarily stops if something catches his interest, I mosey through at a snails pace soothed into a comatose by the silence and clicking heels.
I gravitate towards the impressionists and their dreamy depiction of beauty. In backing away from the realists they brought a beauty necessary for the progress of art and culture. They made space for freedom and creation that was a degree removed from the literal to allow expression beyond the expectations of society.
One gallery over is the modern art and the abstract expressionists. It is huge and full of canvases with splotches and lines. Gone are the reflections of form and face, all to be replaced by melting shapes and linear chaos. There is beauty and expression of its own in these pieces but they reflect no longer humanity and its definitive world.
One of the books Professor Simcoe gave me to read was called On Human Being, and in it the author Olivier Clement states this progression in art is reflective of the culture at large. In one view it reflects the removal of lines in society and a building up of diversity, tolerance and skepticism. Loss of form in art becomes indicative of the perpetual greying of black and white, and the tumbling movement forward into the acceptance of relativity that will crush us with its weight or sweep us up into its transit.
That's the pessimistic view, the optimistic view is that this abstract art reflects the incommunicable need for something beyond the forms of this life that encompass the brokenness of our world. Without the structure or understanding of religion, it is a longing without words for progression into some greater life.
Or maybe it’s just pretty, but to all points – hear, hear.
The other night Trever and I went with some friends to the Hollywood Bowl to see Harry Potter with the LA Philharmonic playing the score. Last year we saw E.T. and I loved it so much we decided to brave the Potter maniacs and their wands for the experience of the show. We had left before the orchestra had completed the credits music which was wildly rude, but because of that we were behind the stage when the they finished the final piece and I felt like a bomb went off, so loud was the applause from the crowd. I almost got emotional listening to the worshipful celebration for an ancient art form from so many people all at once. The movie had ended and received its applause, this was enormous praise for the Orchestra and it felt holy, like this moment of spiritual enlightenment when I listened to 17,000 people bang their hands together and scream for music.
Malraux said that the arts Centres are the Catherdrals of our age, and it is so very true. Music, theatre, cinema, galleries, fashion, they are the center of our society and why? Might it be, that in our most illiterate state of mind, it is through beauty that we experience spirituality? Belief aside, there is a deep and guttural urge to lift our eyes up at the symphony, to meditate on the canvas, to stand and applaud at the cinema, to shed a tear at the beauty of the created. It could be just an awe and wonder at the human capacity to make the exquisite, or it could be that art and beauty causes us to worship when we have no cognitive understanding or acceptance of God. As created and creative beings, we unknowingly paint replicates of the master of color.
But what is a worship without diety, without goodness, without redemption – it is only a shadow of true praise. If our creativity is really just a reflection, what then is the original form?
Clement encourages for the creation of theurgic art, theurgic being the practice of rituals that invoke the presence of God. I don’t know if it's through icons that we create the kind of art that connects maker and made, but there are times where I have had glimpses of it. I have felt the wordless uniting of the rippled reflection with its true form and in those moments I have had a clarity of mind that comes with the knowledge of the origin, of the exquisite artistry that we so rarely recognize and yet are so furious to recreate.