Adam Boulter re
Interviewed by The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas
NC: Are Art and Faith awkward partners?
AB: Jacques Maritain once claimed that ‘Christianity does not make ar t easy. It deprives it of many facile means’, but neither does art make Christianity easy. Maritain is quite right to point out how Christian faith elevates art through the difficulties it presents to the artist.
However the reverse is also true: the activities of making and viewing art raise significant challenges to the Christian faith. Many of those challenges can be found in the interaction of any art form and any world-view, but are par ticularly present in the interaction of painting and Christianity. Making and viewing art raise significant challenges to the Christian faith.
NC: So why paint?
AB: We paint because it makes us acutely aware of God’s absolute transcendence and immanence. Painting does this through echoing the incomprehensibility of God’s transcendence and immanent presence in the here and now, through the interdependence and tension between its abstract and figurative properties.
NC: Discussing art and theology seems to open up many important questions. How does our creativity relate to the creativity of God?
AB: God by His nature is imageless and unknowable, at work recreating and sustaining the universe, and yet has made us in his image.
In considering why we paint or seek to create in any art form we first need to consider God’s action of creating
that still runs through our beings and cosmos, as he
is the source of ever ything and so of our creative efforts. God has not merely started off creation and then abandoned it to run its own course. God iscreatively at work in the world actively sustaining and recreating reality all of the time and in all places.
I believe that for Christians there are implications for art of God becoming incarnate as a specific human being in Jesus, who calls us to respond to his call to follow him.
NC: How can we make religious images when God is beyond representation?
AB: For Christians the imageless God becomes a human who has an image. Painting by its very nature echoes this dual nature of Christ, byalways simultaneously being figurative and abstract, and confronting us with the tension between the abstract and figurative qualities ofany image or idea articulated in a physical medium.
NC: Why is this so? Can art be a vehicle for God’s action?
AB: I would argue that this tension and gesturing beyond
itself allows a space to emerge in which God can be encountered, and the prophetic discerned. This tension makes us aware of the impossibility of ourknowing the divine, yet the necessity of our encounter with the divine. This allows us to learn to see beyond our intentions and creations, to God’saction in the world; and so to start to discern God’s nature as immanent, transcendent and prophetically show God’s will to the world.
God’s image and mark on us and breath in us is a profoundly creative breath (Genesis i,3); this is the same breath that breathes light into the universe,that creativity of God is part of what God made us, it is part of what we are, or more accurately part of what we are called to become. We live in a fallen world and that image of God that we should be is always twisted, but this creativity is part of what we are called to be and needs redirecting towards God.ommon Ground Winter 2014
NC: So to come back to my earlier question, how does
painting help in all this?
AB: Painting is a medium in which thought can happen, but the media we use to express our thoughts inevitably form and restrict them as Wittgenstein explored. So if we are to respond with all of our minds we must use various and different mediums to think through. Painting is by its nature a different way of thinking to textual thought or internal conversations in any language, and just as we find when we learn a new language thatthere
are thoughts we can think in one language but not in
another, so there are thoughts we can have with painting that we cannot have with textual language.
© Adam Boulter