To say that this site is not about paintings is to draw attention to ‘meaning’. I am not interested in aesthetics unless it is to emphasise a point; I am not interested in producing art to sell; I am not interested in compliments about artistic skill.
I am interested to hear what meaning viewers garner from the images. I might have said, ‘what meaning viewers divine from the images.’ In KJV Habakkuk 2:2-3 Then the Lord answered me and said:“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets,That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.”
- My training as an art psychotherapist leads me to ask, when I am before a painting, ‘What do I see?’ This leads to an answer that is directly linked to the art work and interpretation is then, at this early stage, kept to a minimum. I do not believe in seeking interpretation prematurely.
- Jonathan Welton, a Seer, asks three questions of visions or inner pictures:
- What are you showing me?
- What does it mean?
- What must I do?
Paradoxically, the meaning of an image doesn’t necessary come with the picture. I wonder if John at Patmos understood what he was seeing? No. The writing of it was for future generations. He may not have understood the imagery.
The church, the Body of Christ, is meant to interrelate. I know from my practice as an art therapist that I may not necessarily have a full understanding of my painting, even though I may have painted it!
How to Read
When we ‘read’ a picture, be it a word picture or drawing/painting we can interpret it in the same manner as interpretation of texts. We can also apply the same hermeneutic rules, or rules of interpretation. What is the context? What do we see or hear without interpretation first? It is generally accepted that our interpretative stance may rely on a knowledge of the speaker (their epistemology) their culture, or where they’re coming from. Whether the ‘speaker’ be an unknown person or Balaam’s ass, the rule is the same; is this utterance in keeping with scriptures?
John W Dixon, Jr in ‘Art and the Theological Imagination’ says:
“One of the irritating obstacles to the full incorporation of the arts into the generality of the work of the mind is the inability of the non-art people to see that art deals with fundamental issues. It is considered an enrichment of the humane life, an extension of the forms of feeling a symptom of movements of the mind (and therefore, a diagnostic, instrument), a reflection or illustration of ideas. It is not often considered a fundamental thinking about fundamental ideas.”1. (pp23-24)
Indeed, Dixon does settle for a definition of art that can be an “exegetical instrument at the service of story.” p24. And still, I am not satisfied. Dixon does address the “prime narrative” p25 of certain artists but to my mind these are illustrations of pre-existing ideas. Again, this is not what my paintings and drawing are about.
To put this in my own words, my art (drawings and paintings) on these pages is ‘a telling’. It is saying, “look guys, look at what I’ve seen, not just in my mind’s eye as a thought picture, but in a vision, a dream, a message. This imagery was not sought after; the imagery came as a surprise.” My first drawing of such imagery was done because I felt that I wouldn’t remember all the imagery and so I had to record it on paper. This has the advantage of recording elements that I didn’t understand or could save for later understanding. My paintings and drawings invite you, the viewer-the-reader, to interact with the imagery, to be a part of the corporateness of Jesus Christ, and to share your insights.
I sympathise with Dixon’s frustration regarding the irritating obstacles surrounding the presentation of visual images in painting and drawing form. This, especially in the theological context. Twice I have been prevented from speaking on them in two different theology college seminars because the theologians involved didn’t want to hear it, perhaps they felt out of their depth; perhaps they were visually illiterate. I have tried elsewhere to address this problem of visual illiteracy with art lessons that don’t teach art, but teach seeing. There is a big difference.
I shall add to this page as and when I can.